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

 

Stage 5 of Alzheimer’s – Early Dementia

As told by Reverend G …

As I practice my A B Cs, I think of my little boy, Jacob. He is … I don’t know … about eight or ten now.

No, I saw him just this morning, and he is grown with a wife. What is her name?

Hebrews 13-5bI cannot find my shoes, even though I took them off just a few minutes ago. This morning, someone had to help me tie them. I forgot how to make the bunny ears go inside each other. Such a strange forgetting.

At least I have not forgotten God. I know he is with me each day and throughout every moment of my waking and sleeping hours. I know this because he promised this and he always keeps his promises.

I will never, never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b).

Perhaps I have failed him in the past. I don’t remember. But that doesn’t matter. He loves me even in my forgetfulness, even in this dreaded journey through dementia and Alzheimer’s.


And no matter how much worse it gets, he will never fail to stay beside me.


I wish I could remember what I had for lunch. It bothers me, because I’m not sure I even ate lunch.

Doc Sanders or some medical person wants me to eat more, because he says I’m too thin. But how can I eat if I can’t remember what to do with food?

This is a quandary. I never expected to have this problem in my life. I wonder if I will feel better about it tomorrow.

I wonder what day it is tomorrow. Somewhere I have a calendar with little squares marked off for each day and a pretty picture at the top. Maybe I will look for that after supper.

Thank you, God, for being with me – even now – as I try to remember my lunch and search for my calendar. Thank you for being timeless.

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

Discovering the Saints in Assisted Living

When I visited my mother-in-law at her assisted living, we talked about the passing of seasons. Besides the obvious winter season of November and Thanksgiving, we discussed the particular seasons of life.old woman

Her season now includes living in the beautiful and secure setting of assisted living where she is surrounded by those who help her remember when lunch is served and when it is time to visit the hair salon.

Her nails have grown long and are carefully manicured because her daughters make sure she receives that treat. I remember her as the hard-working housewife during a previous season, puttering around her kitchen with brittle fingernails thrust into dishwater several times a day.

But life is different now. She has no dishes to wash and no floors to scrub, so she grows her nails long and chooses any color she likes for the nail tech who paints them. I am glad for her this tiny yet significant joy.

I accompany her to lunch and as we visit, I see the faces of my past. The father of one of my high school friends holds himself erect even as he slowly makes his way to the lunch buffet. I remember the quiet dignity of this aging saint, the way he encouraged us to sing and pray and trust. His hair, once a flaming red, now reflects over 80 years of pigment change while wrinkles line the face that once smiled at us from a left side pew, half-way down in the sanctuary.

Another gentleman recognizes me and I him. He once worked the land even as my father did. I remember one harvest when my family had to leave the fields to attend the funeral of my uncle.

While we were gone, this farmer gathered his family together, left his own fields untended and cut our family’s wheat. A necessary kindness that farmers often presented to their neighbors – a way to pay it forward. They knew we would reciprocate if they ever needed the same kindness.

This man stands before me and explains that his Thanksgiving this year was sad. A second son has preceded him to heaven – the backwards motion of life that tragically surprises, reminding us there are no guarantees no matter what our age. Each day is precious and can never be retrieved.

I understand the grief behind his eyes, yet he still smiles – a reminder that our shared faith reaches much farther than the cemetery.

Another saint eats in the dining room, and I recognize the gracious woman who once served in various hospitality ministries. She is now confined to a wheelchair and the daughter who tends her wears the same smile, bearing resemblance not only to the physical family traits but also to the holy inhabitant within.

My mother-in-law finishes her lunch, and I manage to snag a piece of pecan pie for her, remembering her own pecan pies during past seasons. I could never replicate her pecan pie, even when I explicitly followed the recipe.

The seasons of the past flow around me in the aging faces of faith – these elders who passed on to a young girl the importance of church attendance and scripture memory, the joy of interceding for each other as we responded in worship together.

I feel gratitude for the examples of these saints, these living images of the Hebrews 11 heroes who whispered advice through the ages. These are the folks who now wait out their timelines in assisted living while I continue in the ministry of my current season.

One season blends into another and each season is affected by the weather of the previous, just as the faith behaviors of these aged saints once affected me.

I can only hope that my life is also a favorable influence on the generations younger than I who may someday visit me in the winter season of my life.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Photo by Chalmers Butterfield

What Alzheimer’s Teaches – Part 4

We know that Alzheimer’s Disease can teach us several things: patience, the importance of each day and how we should make memories while we can. But another, rather negative lesson also surfaces.

Strongholds endure. Number 4

A stronghold is any type of behavior or attitude that has a strong hold on us. Sometimes, it is the result of a lifetime of bad choices. Sometimes it is from a learned behavior and other times, it is based on a lie someone told us. Then we believed that lie and based our lives on it. Sad.

I have observed how strongholds endure, not only in my mother, but in myself as well. As we age, our strongholds may revisit us with a vengeance.

My mother’s propensity to worry has magnified with her Alzheimer’s. She admits it. “I’m a worrier,” she says. “I stew about everything.”

She worries that someone is stealing her money, her house or her car. All of us in the family know this is not true, but Mom’s fear is even stronger now that it is coupled with nightmares and the side effects of some medicines. Although she lives in a beautiful facility where she is perfectly safe, she is still a fearful person.

I don’t want that to happen to me.

So whenever I notice some of the strongholds of my past rearing their ugly heads, I fight against them with scripture and prayer. My favorite passages become fightin’ words that fill me with peace when the cares of this life attack me.

When fear tries to invade my peace, I hit it with Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He heard me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

When the lie of rejection torments me, I remind it of Hebrews 13:5 as God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When failure screams at me, I holler right back from the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, “God has a good plan for my life. So there!”

Although strongholds may endure throughout a lifetime, we don’t have to let them torment us forever. The more we fight now, the more victories we’ll have later.

I want victory now so that I can live well and leave well.