Hope Realigns

arrows - alignmentA pastor began his introduction into the Communion Service with a call for confession. “This is the time to realign our hearts,” he said, “to make sure we are ready to receive the bread and cup together.”

Realigning our hearts to God – I had never considered that viewpoint but I liked it. As I bowed my head and confessed sins and errors of judgment, prideful thoughts of the week and the taking of offenses that did not belong to me – I was grateful for moments of contemplative confession.

Sometimes phrases and words stay with me for a long time. I ponder them, journal about them, pray fervently for clarity.

As I thought about the topic of realignment and pondered this blog post, I saw the need for realignment in many areas of life.

My last post centered on the topic of release as I linger in God’s waiting room.

How can I realign my soul as I wait and release?

As I work on necessary patience, I realign my heart to accept whatever God’s answers might be. Bringing my heart back to the correct focus is a constant soul work and a spiritual discipline I want to conquer.

When we have struggles in relationships, we might consider the idea of realignment. How can we be mutually submissive so that compromise works and love scores a win?

How can we set healthy boundaries in our lives and realign our hearts with what is truly important? We might try less productivity for the sake of dollars; more reaching out to the needy.

As a writer, my creative mind constantly sparks with new ideas – another book I yearn to write, articles and blog posts to reach the masses through cyberspace, another website focused on my coaching outreach.

But in this season of active ministry, my time to construct paragraphs and plots, characters and resolutions is limited. The achievement of polished manuscripts lies dormant.


I must realign my goals with reality and wait for the time when ideas bring a harvest. God is glorified even in the waiting.


Especially during this Lenten season, I seek to realign my soul with the important rather than the urgent, to find my joy in the simple pleasure of God’s presence and the divine whisper that sings lullabies at night.

Then when resurrection comes – whether it is Easter Sunday, resolutions within relationships or the birth of a new book – I will know hope has preceded me.

Realignment will have succeeded and once again – I will journey on the right path.

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

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 3

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy our family ties.family quote

Dad was an introvert while Mom was the talker. They made a great team and even though Mom’s personality stays intact, she seems a bit more closed off since her beloved Hank graduated to heaven.

Yet … our family remains strong and devoted to one another. Mom is still and always will be the matriarch.

She comes from a long line of matriarchal women who raised their children with leather belts and switches from the trees. Women who knew how to kill a chicken, then strip its feathers and fry it to a golden brown.

Women who worked a job outside of home, shopped for the harvest crew and put a huge meal on the table so that hungry men found sustenance. Then woke early the next morning and did it all over again.

Women who fiercely protected their children, used every resource available and saved enough money so their kids could attend college without going into debt.

During this holiday season, we will drive Mom to the same farm where she raised us. I will buy a pecan pie and Cool Whip so she can have her favorite Thanksgiving treat.

She will sit at the table and occasionally speak. When she does, we will listen – even if it doesn’t quite make sense. Because she is the Mom, the grandmother and now – the great-grandmother.

And sometimes, as she sits in the recliner beside the fire, I will catch her with a look on her face and wonder, What is she thinking?

Is she homesick for heaven? Probably. Is she missing her husband, her mother, her grandmothers who taught her so much? Certainly.

Is she remembering those days when she fixed the entire Thanksgiving meal, then organized the clean-up crew, saved all the leftovers and planned how she would make the budget stretch so that every child had a special gift on Christmas? I would bet so.

And sometimes – in the glow from the fire – I see in her the features of all the matriarchs before her and I know Alzheimer’s can never destroy those family ties.

That same strength has been shared with my siblings and I. We have attempted to pass it on to our children so that faith, determination and perseverance never diminishes throughout our generations.

In the Mennonite church, we used to sing, “Blessed be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love.” As I observe my mother throughout these waning years of her life, those family ties keep us bound together.

This brutal disease of Alzheimer’s can never destroy those ties.

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

How to Find a Legacy Within Alzheimer’s

Because October is my birthday month, my thoughts often center around the woman who birthed and raised me. Although Dad was a prominent faith figure in my growing up years, it was Mom who pushed me out of the birth canal and then pushed me to become who I am.Arlene Renken - nurse

She was a fighter and an extrovert, unlike the rest of us who liked to disappear within our private worlds to write, listen to music or find our energy in the beautiful solitude of the Oklahoma landscape.

Odd that I speak of Mom in the past tense, even though her brave heart still beats as she stares at the wall opposite her chair. That’s what Alzheimer’s does to a family. We say goodbye, one stage at a time, one regression after another so that when death finally releases our loved one – much of the grieving has already been done. “The Long Goodbye” is aptly titled.

Mom grew up poor, walked to high school (yes, miles away, even in the snow and rain) and wore the same two dresses until her Sunday dress became too worn for church. It was then relegated for school wear as her mother sewed a better one for the Sabbath or one of the cousins passed down a Sunday outfit that wasn’t yet worn out.

As part of her legacy, Mom was determined none of her children would ever be ashamed of their clothes or feel embarrassed because they didn’t fit in. So she learned how to sew, spread out the material on the farmhouse floor, cut, pinned and put together whatever clothes we needed to look like we had some cash in the bank.

Then she made certain that each of us understood the importance of a quality education so that we would never feel the sting of poverty. We grew up with a solid work ethic, attended college, saved our pennies and never bought anything we didn’t really need.


It was a simpler time – a beautiful segment of history, without traffic snarls, school shootings or adultery in every family tree. I miss it every day.


Mom was willing to live in an old farmhouse and fix it up gradually, learning how to wallpaper and restore old pieces of furniture. Much of our house looked like the early-attic variety, but none of us minded. It was a safe place to grow up although cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But who minded when the kitchen smelled like fresh-baked bread, the fields sprouted a golden harvest that supported us all year and the animals taught us about life and death.

As a registered nurse, Mom followed the habits of “old school” nursing. Always dressed in white, her uniform and hat starched and gleaming, her white shoes and hose the perfect accessory. In those days, no jewelry was allowed except a simple wedding band.

But Mom, always a bit of a radical, wore a cross necklace under her slip. “To remind me I’m working as a Christian,” she said. “To keep me focused on what matters when I have to clean someone’s bottom or tell a family their child just died.”

Strength of character. Rock solid faith. Those qualities are hard to imagine in the woman who now rocks back and forth and accuses strangers of stealing her digital clock.

Yet it was those very qualities that taught me how to work well even when no one is watching, how to pray my guts out, how to deal with life when it hurts by working hard and moving forward, how to fight against traditions that are based only on men’s interpretations rather than the powerful voice of God.

Even now, as I have journeyed through a faith crisis and wondered how to find a church that will accept my calling – I know Mom would understand. If I could just communicate with her, she would get that steely gleam in her eye and tell me to “Stop whining. Just get busy and do it.”

She was probably one of the first parents who envisioned the concept of giving your children roots and wings. She taught us well, then let us go and cheered us whether we succeeded or learned hard life lessons through failure.

Never demonstrative with her love, if anyone attacked her kids – they would face the wrath of a woman who knew how to struggle through the worst of life’s catastrophes and conquer them through sheer determination and grit.

No one dare beat up her kids, either emotionally or physically. She would stand tall in her 5’8” frame and declare, “One more word, and I’ll jerk a knot in you.”

So I am proud of the legacy Mom has shared with me, a strength of character that dares to question the establishment yet humbly accepts God’s will.

Even in the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I see Mom’s resolve to finish her course well, to find contentment in the every dayness of Bingo, planned meals and assigned seats during movie night.

The strong woman who raised me still exists somewhere deep within, even though the outer shell gains fragility, age spots and graying hairs.

The legacy continues. Thanks, Mom.

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

Being with Sabbatical Friends

Within the respite of our sabbatical visit, we eat well, laugh and tell stories. My friends and I, on this girlfriend weekend in Yoder, Kansas – we catch up on twenty years of lifetimes with each other and without.

Once we lived in the same town, worshipped together, hurt each other unintentionally and built a relationship that still lives today. We have grown older, forgiven each other and ourselves, learned to be women of God.

2 Carols and meI wonder if my friends realize all they mean to me. Have I told them so? Do these friends of sabbatical know how much I need their hugs and laughter, their friendship and joy as we walk among the Amish shops and eat in quaint restaurants – the harvest of natural products and the joy of companionship?

We browse through a hardware store that is equipped with Radio Flyer wagons, butter crocks and filaments for kerosene lanterns – all the things an Amish family might need. A man stands at the counter, his long white beard and black hat pegging him as unique to the world and special to God. An Amish farmer. He leaves the store and walks toward his tractor.

This particular brand of Amish drive tractors, but not cars. They ride in buggies behind horses. Their women wear no makeup yet I would love to have their fresh, clear skin. Their children dress alike in the colors of nature: blue, pale green and brown. No accessories. Their quiet life and the peace on their faces the only accessory needed.

I envy their lives in this tiny village. No one here seems to struggle with Alzheimer’s, yet I have not seen an older person. Perhaps back home, in the white farmhouses that hide behind cedar brush, a woman like my mother struggles to remember her children. Maybe even here, families grieve through 36-hour days as they care for loved ones who sometimes forget.

A horse and buggy parks downtown next to a tractor, driven by a bearded father. The mother and children bundle into the cubby van, a small horse trailer in back. A traffic caution sign is pasted in full view, warning those of us who are the “English” and drive fast cars.

Slow down. Breathe. Take time to enjoy the living.

Sheep and cows stand like furry dots against the growing green of wheat fields. Fresh butter and hormone-free milk leads us in a discussion with a local businessman about the importance of what we eat – what we force into our bodies.

Is our food from a plant created by God? This is good. Eat it with joy. Is it manufactured in a processing plant? Danger. Avoid it.

Fresh applesauce and fruity preserves. A young mother with three little girls – all dressed alike in grey coats, blue dresses and white scarves. Worry-free faces – all of them – no worldly masks. Surely they also bear pure hearts.

And I wonder – what have we missed in the busy city with all its traffic and noisy consumption? If the city is so wonderful, then why does my soul long for another sabbatical even as I finish this one?

Surely there is purpose in both lives and both places of living.

In the city with its opportunities to serve God by helping others – so many nonprofits and churches reaching out to the teeming thousands and their hungry hearts.

In the country with its beauty and sincerity, preserving a way of life so many of us have forgotten, harvesting from the land to share its goodness with others.

Somewhere in the middle of both lives, a balance cries out and refuses to be ignored.

Learn to be still and know that He is God. Learn to serve and reach out to the harried and hurting.

But most of all, learn the difference and when the pendulum swings to the extreme, gently nudge it back toward the center.

For only when we are centered in Christ are we most effective and most content.

Only when we are “being” with Him can we share and maintain hope.