Hope Creates Lifetime Goals

Because I recently achieved one of those milestone birthdays, I meditated and prayed about God’s will for me in this new season of life.Hope word

The answer came as a whisper to “Check out Psalm 92.” Within the Psalmist’s words, I found a description of what I want to be and do in the years to come.

Of course, only God knows the extent of my timeline and the eventual plan he has for me.

But the Psalmist recorded some practical and wise advice that I plan to journal through and cache within my goal-setting process.

  • Flourish in the courts of our God

Whatever I do and wherever I am, I hope to flourish – to do my work with simple trust and hearty obedience, to finish well and make a difference in the Kingdom.

  • Grow in grace and bear fruit in old age

Jesus didn’t face old age, so we don’t have a divine model. But we can look at examples from Scripture to find out how to grow old with grace.

Noah accepted new assignments even when they seemed improbable and a bit crazy; i.e. building a boat while rain was just a weird unknown.

Elizabeth trusted God for the impossible and discerned how he was working in the world she inhabited; i.e. she mentored the mother of Jesus and trusted that her own womb bore God’s messenger.

John wrote the words that would encourage and inspire believers for centuries. Did he realize that one of the greatest hooks of all time would come from his pen? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was from God and the Word was God.”

  • Be full of spiritual vitality

I want to be so filled with the Spirit and emptied of myself that the love and compassion of Christ precedes me into each room. I want my eyes to portray love and my voice to echo with the truth in a way that draws people to its life-giving source.

  • Rich in trust, love and contentment

I don’t want to be a saint who spends time griping about my aches and pains or the state of the country or the problems of younger generations. I want to be an example of what life-long trust in the God of the universe means – sharing his love while grateful for the breath of each day.

  • A living memorial to show that he is upright and faithful

The memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson focus on the words and grand living of these statesmen. How much greater and a broader goal to be a living memorial of who God is and how he is faithful to every promise.

Psalm 92:13-15 contains the rich truth and goal-setting ideas I can hang my hat on. As I march into this next season of life, even as the birthday ice cream slowly crystallizes in the freezer, I want this to be a fulfilling time of joy – while processing through whatever God desires for me.

He knew me before he made the world, what he planned for me, the good works he prepared for me to do. May that plan be exactly what happens and may it result in hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

How to Find Hope in a Published Book

With the release of “Final Grace for Reverend G,” the trilogy is complete. The gutsy little minister has challenged us to find hope even within the plaque-infested world of Alzheimer’s Disease.Rev G 3 Cover

On the eve of the release, I sat in my office and looked at the three books on my dream shelf. “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” acquired by Pamela Sonnenmoser for CrossRiver Media, not long before she graduated to heaven. The book that surprised even me, because I didn’t think I could write fiction.

Intermission for Reverend G” followed with its characterization of Alzheimer’s and a culmination of a romance between Reverend G and her soulmate, Chris. Another surprise for me because I don’t read romance. I still have no idea how that plot line happened and what made it so successful with my readers. Maybe because the characters were older and the idea of a romance with an Alzheimer’s patient was just flukey enough to be wonderful.

Final Grace for Reverend G” ended the trilogy and hopefully – it will become a best-seller with my readers, reminding us all that hope is eternal and God has a good plan for our lives – even when we face a serious disease.

As I looked at the books and realized the release date had arrived, I wondered – why am I not more excited? I didn’t even feel like celebrating with a bowl of Chunky Monkey ice cream or a slice of cheesecake with blueberries on top.


Was it because I missed Reverend G and the end of the series meant I had to finally let her go?


The publishing of a book is still a big deal to me. Even though I’ve been published before, these were my first novels. This story was real, because it mirrored what my family is going through with Mom. But it’s not the final release that is exciting, or the marketing and promotional activities.

It’s something else.

The achievement of writing and finding a publisher for three books is also a big deal. It marks another goal in my writing career, the answer to many prayers and the culmination of a dream. Seeing my books on library shelves and signing my name on the title page of each book during speaking events or booksignings – I still get chills up and down my arms.

But that doesn’t bring the most excitement.

What really does it for me is when I hear from readers, “Your books gave me ideas for how to deal with my dad. He has dementia, and we just didn’t know what to do.”

Or the CNA who shared the books with her colleagues, hoping they could all learn some new techniques for dealing with patients in assisted living.

The reader in Kansas who buys my books for her friend in Indiana, so she’ll have something encouraging to read as she watches her husband fade away in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.

Or the readers who emailed me, “I didn’t know we could pray so honestly to God. Reverend G taught us that it’s okay to cry out, ‘I can’t stand this.’”

When my readers learn something from the story, when they feel encouraged in their difficult journeys, when they find some hope, when they hear from God through the words he breathed through me – that’s exciting.

The end result of all the hours of writing, editing, revising, and doing it all over again to make it the best it can be is when all that perseverance pays off.

The excitement generates when people read my books and then buy them for someone else – to help another family dealing with the disease.

That’s when I know it was all worth it. And that’s when I’m encouraged to write another book, another blog post or another article so that this writer can somehow make a difference.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Thrives at 88

When I first met Donna, stepmother of my friend, I thought she might be in her 70’s. She invited us to spend several days in her lovely apartment in Denver.Denver

During that time, Donna cooked healthy and colorful meals, she instructed us in the best ways to avoid traffic snarls and she led us in lively discussions about baseball – particularly her beloved Colorado Rockies.

Our time with her included hours of experiencing her hospitality and nurturing gifts. When we left, her hugs were genuine and warm.

So I was amazed to discover that she is 88 years old, just one year older than my mother yet in activity and stimulating conversations – decades younger.

Spending time with this wonderful woman reminded me of what no longer exists when I visit Mom.

When Mom lived independently, my visits were always a source of joy. She served my favorite foods, asked me about my work, rejoiced in my latest books or articles. She drove me to Braums – the Oklahoma version of the best-ever ice cream, hamburgers and fries.

Mom and I worshipped together, discussed politics and the importance of women staying strong and setting boundaries.

When the end of the weekend inevitably came, Mom pressed a twenty dollar bill into my hand and said, “It costs money for gas. This should help.”

Those were times of nurturing, of refreshing sleep and practical love. I always left renewed and encouraged.

Since the memory thief called Alzheimers invaded our family, Mom has not been able to nurture, to provide care or to express love as she did before.

Perhaps it is a selfish desire, but I miss those weekends with Mom and the reminder that I am still a daughter, still respected for my individual gifts yet bonded within our family’s traditions.

Alzheimer’s has ripped that nurturing experience into shreds and left me with only faded memories of shopping trips, phone calls and the desire: “I need to discuss this with Mom.”

So when Donna reintroduced that motherly hospitality into my life on one weekend in Denver, it was a bittersweet reminder of what once was possible with my mother.


If the gift of hospitality and the joy of practical love can still thrive at the age of 88, then hope continues into my own advancing years. I am encouraged that Alzheimer’s does not steal from every family.


If the kindness of a nurturing heart can extend toward a friend of a step-daughter and produce gratitude in the fresh mountain air, then the threat of old age and memory loss need not expand into fear.

Once again, I am filled with the hope that maybe when I reach my 80’s – I can still nurture my son and his family, still use my gifts of teaching, writing and service, still find joy in the beginning of every day.

Thank you, Donna, for grafting that hope back into my soul and giving me fresh impetus to march into my tomorrows with a giving mentality.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of “Final Grace for Reverend G” – http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Stage 2 of Alzheimer’s – Questions

As told by Reverend G … Stage 2 - Alz

Such a subtle change, but scary nonetheless. I wonder what is happening to me but don’t feel the need to check with Doc Sanders.

Tiny signs. A forgotten phrase during the Lord’s Prayer. A trip to the grocery store, then realize I forgot my list and can’t remember anything I need.

Surely it’s only stress or maybe a weird virus where neurons stop firing together. Maybe a simultaneous mix of allergies that somehow have attacked my memory bank.

Why God? Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? I can’t stand it.

Again, you send me to the book of Isaiah – this brave prophet who carried your message so faithfully.

Today I read from Isaiah 48:1-2, “Hear me, my people, you swear allegiance to the Lord…and brag about depending on the God of Israel.”


So if I believe in God’s power to keep me safe and if I depend on him for everything, then I need to live it out.


When I forget my own birthday, rely on God to help me.

When I miss a line in the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology in front of my entire congregation and I am so embarrassed, trust that God will cover me with grace. He is never too embarrassed to love me.

When I don’t understand what’s happening to me, depend on God’s wisdom.

If, as his follower, I believe I belong to him…if I boast that he is faithful…then I must continue to walk down this road, believing he will walk with me.

I am afraid. I do not understand and yet – I am held in the palm of his mighty hand.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

7 Stages of Alzheimer’s

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned that my mother is slipping into Stage 5 of Alzheimer’s. Some of my followers  asked me, “What are the stages and how do they manifest in our loved ones?”

7 Stages of AlzSo I’ve decided to answer that question with a series of blog posts about the 7 Stages. Each week, we’ll look at the next consecutive stage – but not totally from a scientific point of view.

My journey into the world of Alzheimer’s has included my mother’s disease but also the viewpoint of a special lady – Reverend G.

These posts will include Reverend G’s personal experiences and her thoughts through each consecutive stage.

Also, each post will end with a Bible verse that Reverend G hangs on to during that stage. She is, after all, an ordained minister and her faith is important to her – no matter what is happening to her brain.

As we move closer to the book launch for the third book in the series, “Final Grace for Reverend G,” I’ll also include some videos to help my followers understand each stage of the journey.

So to introduce the series, here are the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s – as Reverend G experiences them – with a bit of scientific information from my research. I hope you’ll join me on this series of posts and share them with your friends.

Stage 1: Preparation. No cognitive decline is present, but a sense that Reverend G doesn’t feel exactly well and wonders what is going to happen. She believes God is preparing her for something in the near future. Isaiah 43: 2-3.

Stage 2: Questions. A small amount of forgetfulness is present, but nothing that impairs life. One example is when Reverend G forgets a line from “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is the stage where “The Unraveling of Reverend G” begins. Isaiah 48:2.

Stage 3: Fear. Something is definitely wrong and life is beginning to seem more difficult. Early confusion sets in. Reverend G loses an entire carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Fear is a constant companion. Psalm 34:4.

Stage 4: Diagnosis. Reality confirms the diagnosis as more and more confusion affects Reverend G. Handling finances becomes more difficult and while short-term memory begins to fog, long-term memory is still coherent.

This is the stage where most families begin to consider assisted living arrangements. Reverend G begins to accept what is happening to her. Psalm 43:5.

Stage 5: Early Dementia. Reverend G no longer cares about time or the days of the week. She has difficulty counting backwards although she still knows the names of her loved ones. She still enjoys eating cheesecake with blueberries but she may have some trouble tying her shoelaces or making decisions about what to wear.

She may have dreams that seem real, although they just confuse her further. Her comment appears often, “Oh God, oh God – I can’t stand it.” Reverend G lives through Stages 4 and 5 in “Intermission for Reverend G.” Hebrews 13:5b.

Stage 6: Back to Childhood. Severe cognitive decline as Reverend G is now entirely dependent for her survival. She experiences expressive aphasia as speech become more difficult.

Her beloved Chris is with her and her family remains a source of comfort, but she has forgotten major events and the seasons of the year mean nothing to her. Time has virtually disappeared.

She does know her own name, but others will have to help her with daily living. At this point, she is relying on God to keep her faith strong, because she has no cognitive ability to comprehend what the Bible says, even though she may be able to recite some passages or find comfort in music.

“Final Grace for Reverend G” begins at the end of Stage 5 and continues through Stage 7. Psalm 56:3-4.

Stage 7: The Race is Won. In this final stage, Alzheimer’s patients are virtually infants. All speech is gone. Feeding and toileting need assistance. They lose the ability to walk and are bedridden.

Reverend G is visited by family and friends, but it is God’s faithfulness that continues to sustain her.

As the author, I wrote Reverend G with some ability to comprehend thoughts although she can no longer voice them. The deep viewpoint was the tool I used because I wanted to show what we cannot know – how the Alzheimer’s patient can still feel love and experience faith.

This is where final grace becomes most important. John 14:3.

So these are the stages of Alzheimer’s, told from the viewpoint of our beloved Reverend G.

In the end, with final grace, even a fictional character can help us understand that once we belong to God – he will never, ever let us go.

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

Hope Eliminates Shame

A memory from my past whispers, “Shame on you,” and suddenly I am four years old again. I have spilled melted ice cream on the floor. An accident. A lack of mature motor skills. I know that now, but my four year-old self only heard the phrase, “Shame on you.” authenticity - shame

Last week, I finished the book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown and once again, I wondered about shame. How many times was shame placed irreverently and inadvertently on my infant soul?

How many times did I believe it, and invite that verdict inward so that as an adult, I am still reeling from the impact?

Shame began in the Garden of Eden when Adam said, “This woman you gave me….” He blamed Eve for the sin of eating the fruit, and he blamed God for giving him a woman who was not perfect. The serpent, aka Satan, used that seed of shame and since then has perpetrated this disease on all of Eve’s daughters.

Men also struggle with shame. When someone reminds them they are less than perfect – not a stud on the football field, not enough as a husband and father, not as handsome as Colin Firth (but of course – no one can compare to Colin Firth).

And on and on the shame goes, through the generations. We shame our children and each other. Why can’t you be like your brother?  Why are you bringing home a “C” when you should have earned an “A”?

Shouldn’t you lose a little bit of weight? Wear a different shade of makeup? Be more like the family in the pew ahead of you? Isn’t it past time for you to have a best seller?

And before we know it, we are again wallowing in puddles of muddy shame.

In our hearts, we know God does not place blame and shame on us. Yet, our brains play the same old tapes.

What Brené Brown writes about with such audacity is that becoming our vulnerable selves faces off against the shame and helps us be who God created us to be.

The joy of finding our authentic selves and living out of that reality is that no one can ever shame us again. 

I pray to God that I never shame my son or anyone else. To my knowledge, I have never used those words, “Shame on you,” and I hope I never imply them by rolled eyes, a sideways glance or a snickering sarcasm.

My hope is built on the fact that I am accepted by grace – with no qualifiers, and I want to extend that same grace to others. Because who we are is much more important than what we do or even what we never accomplish.

And even if the world and our culture doesn’t understand the difference, at least my soul knows the Divine one will never ever shame me.

Let’s challenge each other to be our authentic selves, to lay down our whispered past and find hope in the coming eternity. Let’s live out our lives in joyful abandon, always and forever — without shame.

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

11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

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