Hope for the Long Way

It would be so much easier to travel the shorter journey. But what if God calls us to the long way?

In Exodus 13, God begins to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Freedom! And God encouraged the people with a cloud each day and a pillar of fire each night. Signals that he was indeed with them.

But in verse 17, God specifically states that he will not lead these people on a shorter route. He will take them to the Promised Land the longer way.

They will be learning more about trust and how to endure day by day.

Many people are facing their own ‘long way.’ One of my friends has a beloved daughter who is suffering through a cancer journey. We wanted it to be a fast surgery, one and done. We hoped and prayed for a quick healing. But she is enduring years of chemo, multiple surgeries, life-changing health issues.

Another friend inspires me with her motherly courage. She fostered and adopted some children. Prayed for them. Did all the right things. The short way would be deliverance from childhood trauma, acceptance into peer groups, wholesome attitudes.

Instead, it is a daily struggle dealing with attachment disorder and behavioral struggles at school. The long journey has affected the health of the entire family. Endurance is a daily need.

Didn’t we all want to see an end to the atrocities in Ukraine — sooner rather than later? Yet the war continues. More people suffer and die. The images continue to urge us to pray for those trapped in bunkers, for the pastors and missionaries trying to help their people day after bomb-shelled day.

Beginning writers want to finish their first book and watch it become a bestseller. More experienced authors know the writing journey is a marathon of work and marketing. It requires a long road to find our voice.

Caregivers face years of learning patience, searching for answers, becoming advocates for the Alzheimer’s patient. What is the purpose? Why does death wait to take those who can no longer function? The road is long.

So how do we find hope and live with a more encouraging attitude when our way is long? What can we learn from this Exodus story?

God took the Israelites the long way so they would not change their minds and want to return to the bondage of Egypt. The short way often seems more comfortable. But the long way tests our trust, our grit, our determination to keep believing. We can learn to accept the long road as a faith-building journey.

Although God chose the long way for his children, he did not leave them to face it alone. He was there every day and throughout each night. We can look for God’s presence even as we face another long day.

Athletes know it takes weeks and months to build muscle and stamina. Although their training may be painful, the dedicated athlete continues and learns to thank the coach and trainer.

The long road offers more hope when we face it with gratitude. God is designing something good within our souls. The end result will be a stronger spirit, more faith muscles for the next road.

The story in Exodus involves an entire nation of people. We find strength in being connected. Finding like souls who will lift us up gives us the stamina needed for another day, another week, possibly — another year of the journey.

God had already proven himself to the Israelites — through multiple miracles and a life-saving Passover tradition. We can look to the past and remember how God brought us through something even worse, a longer road, a deeper suffering. He did it before. He will help us again.

Ultimately, our journey contains signposts that offer strength for each day. The practice of journaling, the recitation of helpful verses and quotes, the songs we may have to force ourselves to sing — all these practices can boost our spirits for another day.

And some days, it just helps to take a nap. Zone out for a few minutes and rest.

Whatever road you’re on today, I pray it will be one that leads to the Promised Land. So I share with you one of my spiritual vitamins. This verse has carried me through many of my longer roads and offered hope:

“Surely God is my help. The Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4 TNIV). 

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Send Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms to a woman who needs hope for her long road.

Hope Returns

My hometown recently hosted an author festival. Thirty authors set up their tables, complete with vertical displays, dishes of candy and an assortment of books.

After I set up my table, I roamed through the library and visited with the other authors. This library was the modern version of the old Carnegie library where I grew up. Mom drove us to town each week so we could check out a stack of books.

Who would have guessed that little girl who loved to read would some day return as a published author? Only the God of returned hope.

But this day included more of a helping attitude. Although I sold some books, I was also able to share with other readers how my books came to be — the life issues that impacted me.

One reader wanted to write, but she was stuck. She wanted so desperately to finish her book, but she felt blocked and unable to continue. So we talked about the issues that often stop our creativity. As I listed them, she grabbed my hands and said, “That’s it! Perfectionism. I keep going back to make everything perfect.”

“Ah-h. So remind yourself that a good editor will fix any mistakes. Keep writing, because you can always revise later.”

She seemed relieved and wanted to know more about my coaching services.

Another reader picked up my book Sometimes They Forget. She read the back blurb, and tears formed as she said, “This is about Alzheimer’s?”

“Yes. My mother had Alzheimer’s, but this book is for the caregivers.”

“I need this. We’re trying to take care of my mother, but it’s so hard. How many years was it for you?”

When I told her it was ten years and Mom passed last December, she closed her eyes. “That long,” she said. She seemed tired.

“You have to take care of yourself. It’s okay to leave for a while and get away. Don’t give in to false guilt.”

She nodded, hugged my book to her chest and moved on. I watched her as she took time to look at other books, bought a few, filled her bag with more hope.

A young couple stopped at my table and looked at all the books. Ate some candy. Then she picked up Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

“That’s the book my son and I wrote,” I said. “He’s a millennial, so we wanted to write a book together to explain some of the topics of faith. And we wanted to do it in easy-to-understand language.”

“We’re millennials,” she said. “I think we need this.”

It was fun to share the proceeds of that book with my son and tell him about this couple. I hope the book will help them.

Several women were intrigued by The Invisible Women of Genesis. A couple of them bought the book. When I explained the background, they nodded. “The Bible is full of amazing stories, but many of the women are invisible. Their names aren’t mentioned or any of their back story. I decided to write about the invisible women just in the book of Genesis.”

As I signed copies, I wrote, “You are never invisible to God. He sees you.”

A pastor and his wife were both writers. His books are published. Hers have yet to be finished. “Time,” she said. “There’s never enough time, and people keep dying at inconvenient times.”

I remembered Mom saying something similar at the funeral of one of our relatives. “Death is never convenient.” So true.

One of the more interesting authors I met was an Episcopal priest. He writes murder mysteries. We discussed ways to kill off the bishop. He’s a bit worried about the NSA checking his online research as he looks for the best ways to get blood stains out of the carpet.

So many genres. So many interesting authors.

But this day of returning hope manifested on so many levels:

  • Returns on my books as offerings of hope
  • Returns on my years of experience as an author and coach
  • Returns on relationships as I visited with family and friends

But mostly a return of the soul of a reader who became a writer — back to the place where my love of words began.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved Check out the list of my books on my Amazon Author page. Find the hope in every title.

Hope Defeats the Toxic

When it happens, it feels like a gift, a treasure to be guarded. Sometimes, I can read faces.

This gifting started during a time when I worked for a nonprofit which helped women who had been abused. All sorts of abuse at different times in their lives. Their faces mirrored the pain, horror and sadness. Or the relief when they found freedom.

Then I started to read other faces: the checker at Target, the harried doctor, the librarian trying to help multiple children at the same time.

Some of the faces reflected frustration while others showed a splash of joy. All of them taught me to be more aware of the hidden waves of emotion we all experience.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a different type of reading in the faces of those who suffer. It became apparent when one of my dear clients suffered through a double mastectomy, months of radiation and brutal chemo. She beat the cancer but lost all her hair and much of her muscle tone.

But her face. Oh, my — her face. No hair of any kind, including eyelashes and eyebrows. It was completely clean of any type of subterfuge yet carried the sheen of a soul that had been detoxified. The suffering rubbed her raw so that her faith could then heal the wounds.

A glorified face forged from patience and the need for daily trust.

I saw that same type of face a few weeks ago. Another client suffering through cancer and the painful injections that are supposed to cure it. Weeks and months and days of discouragement and struggle, yet placing her trust in whatever God has for her.

A constant goal — to not waste the suffering.

We took a picture together, and I noticed the difference. Her face glorified and peaceful. Mine darker and not so serene.

I do not envy her suffering, but I covet the strength of her faith.

Quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada once said that the truly disabled are those who do not suffer, those who have a smaller God because they do not need him as much.

When every moment is painful, those who suffer must ask for God’s strength throughout the day. He is bigger to them and dearer, because they need him more.

Hope teaches us that the circumstances of life may not be what we hoped for. Our dreams may have died through our own mistakes or what others have done to us. Disease and death are byproducts of our world.

Yet if we keep our hope centered on the One true God, we can find a purpose in the pain. And we can grow to glorify this God who loves us enough to let us suffer.

Then our lives and even our faces can become mirrors of reflection for all to see. As the toxicity of sin fades and the sheen of God’s love takes over.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays on hope, check out Hope Shines. Available in regular and large print.

Easter Hope

The celebration of Easter this year felt bittersweet. Although I enjoyed the holiday — who doesn’t love bunnies, colored eggs and the excited squeals of children when they wake up to find an Easter basket?

Easter falls smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful seasons in Kansas.

When life bursts from the ground in purple crocus, early yellow tulips and wild hyacinths all over my scraggly lawn.

Even my feral cats represent life as one of them lumbers with kittens in her womb — the other birthing three babies under my deck.

Still, this Easter flipped onto the calendar only four months after we buried Mom. And three of my friends in early 2022. And hundreds of Ukrainian citizens slaughtered by Russian troops. Some of those citizens probably distant cousins.

Death reminds us of our fragile existence. We are mortal, after all. We will all return to the dust that formed us.

Sobering truths are still true, no matter how we seek to avoid them.

But the converse is also true. Despite the death and destruction, life exists in that other realm. Behind that invisible veil that separates us from the spirit world.

Our loved ones wait for us there. God watches over us from that ethereal place we can barely imagine. Where life stretches without end. No more separation. No more death and destruction.

Only the beautiful burst of living color and light where we know as we are known.

Someday, I will be with my parents again. With the friends I lost this year. Someday, God will vindicate those Ukrainian souls and judge those who murdered them.

Someday, eternity will continue to burst with renewed vigor and the beauty of life. No decay. No chaos. No disruption from the beauties of creation.

In the meantime, I will focus my hope on resurrected life and continue to believe in the eternal every day of the year.

And when chaos tries to disrupt that living hope, I’ll play this song and believe all over again.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Share living hope with a single mom. Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms

Finding Hope When You’re Stuck

So many people I know are stuck — waiting for an answer to prayer. The answer that will help them move forward or make a life-changing decision. Even a little boost to nudge them out of the rut.

They have prayed, fasted, cried out to God and yet — nothing. The silence, the no-answer, seems laced in the question, “Where is God?”

What is the block? What is holding back the answers? Is it just a matter of timing or something much deeper and more important?

The requests of these folks are not for wealth or a better car. They ask for direction and wisdom, for a simple interview that might lead to a job, for a roof over their heads or a definitive place to worship.

But silence echoes in eerie response. Almost as if the back story of the 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah is being replayed.

The dark night of the soul when God seems to be in hiding and we are left to wallow in our frailties.

But hope determines God has not disappeared. Nor is he uncaring. He may be silent but still at work — behind the scenes. Moving puzzle pieces together, then declaring the perfect time for an amazing reveal.

So what do we do when the answers refuse to come? When we feel stuck in an eternal calendar where nothing flips us to the next section?

  • Keep believing God WILL answer — in his time. Patience, dear friend, patience.
  • Keep praying because God honors persevering prayer. Stay in hope.
  • Know God has a plan and he promises it will be a good one. Stay in trust and believe even in the unseen.
  • Understand that every season — even seasons of waiting — will eventually end. Keep hoping for your tomorrow.
  • Remember we cannot see every detail that relates to our prayer requests. We cannot know the eternal value or the sacred reasoning behind life’s waiting rooms. Mary and Martha did not understand why Jesus waited to heal their brother. A greater miracle was on the horizon.
  • Post this verse where you can see it every day: “There is a happy end for the man of peace” (Psalm 37:37 Amplified). This verse has seen me through various waiting periods.

Hope continues to believe, especially when we cannot see how our faith works. As we believe in what we cannot see, we can know a facet of eternal value exists. Even though none of the waiting makes sense.

In the meantime, hope continues — one whispered prayer at a time. Keep believing in that happy end and in the One who will someday make it happen.

©2022 RJ Thesman – For more encouragement, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

When Acceptance and Hope Collide

During the Creatives Conference in Santa Fe (circa 2018), I was struck with the beauty and acceptance of New Mexico’s racial diversity.

But a different type of diversity also encouraged me, humbled me and taught me to be more open to those around me.

During my week in Santa Fe, I met writers who were Jews, Buddhists, atheists, Shamans, Christians and a mixture of faiths including one presenter who labeled herself a Bu-Jew.

We laughed together, learned together and connected over bowls of green chile stew, creamy guacamole and quinoa power bowls.

Nobody pulled out a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws, tips from the Torah or quotations from Buddha. Nobody confronted others about being wrong or right. We simply found common ground as writers, accepting each other’s differences while building relationships.

Since then, several of these new friends have followed me on Facebook, added their email addies to my newsletter and committed to my blog. I feel honored to have such a rich diversity of new friends.

After one stimulating lunch where several of us shared our love of everything Santa Fe, I walked back to my hotel room. My experience told me the same lunch with a group of Baptists, Methodists and/or free-spirited anointed Charismatics would no doubt have resulted in arguments, confrontations and insistence on what the Apostle Paul meant in his numerous argumentative writings.

Yet that type of spiritual blasting did not happen with this diverse group. We simply began relationships built on our love of words.

Of course, I hoped the eternal Word was reflected in my speech, in my manner, in my acceptance of these dear creatives. And I believe that my future writings they read will make an impact, if for no other reason than curiosity to be explored.

But I understood more clearly than ever before the need to push away from our comfort zones, wooden pews and cushy sanctuary chairs. To be involved and engaged with people from every faith walk — or no faith at all.

The scriptures remind us Christians to be salt and light. But too much salt gathered in one place makes for a bitter pot of soup. Too much light blinds us to the realities of the needs around us. To those who believe differently yet are still vitally important to the God who reaches out to them.

I am more determined than ever before to use my words to embrace and engage rather than to confront. Although I love Jesus more than life itself, his example was to love as we love ourselves. Jesus drew people in by first listening to them and then meeting their needs.

How can we share hope with the world around us? By letting our hearts invite friendly debate. By refusing to consider ourselves as experts on every question. By building relationships just because we care for our fellow humans.

How can we best reflect the hope that drives us? By remembering the old campfire song and living it out: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

A book that explains faith in a direct and simple way, Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe. Written in collaboration with my gifted son and available on Amazon.

Hope Conquers the Chaos

As a writer, observation is one of my most important tools. Awareness of this tool causes me to listen for dialects when people speak and watch how their actions synch with emotions. This practice helps me develop realistic novels as I incorporate those rhythms into the characters who people my books.

Observation notes interesting quirks such as the depth of a dimple, a spontaneous laugh or fingers drumming on a barn wood plank. The benefits of observation add color and texture to my words without plagiarizing the reality of lives around me.

Sometimes an image or a word surprises with its potential. I observe it, reflect on it and journal through it.

Soon it becomes a theme, a sentence that stretches into a paragraph or as in this case — a quote that morphs into a blog post.

Every great change is preceded by chaos.” Deepak Chopra

This statement pummeled into my soul like a snare drum in the early morning fog.

How appropriate when thinking of the last two years of our history. The chaos COVID created as it marched around the globe. The way it changed how we lived, isolated, shopped, ate out, and sadly — how we treated one another.

This chaos has forced us to consider the depths of our value systems, what is truly important versus the urgency of the moment. With stunning accuracy, chaos created change.

Yet chaos in our journey does not have to define us. We can process the changes and land on our knees — an appropriate stance for any soul-seeker living in chaos.

Gradually, as the murky concrete of change became our new normal, we learned to replace the chaos with a peace that passes all understanding. We could still find hope and joy in the living of a different reality.

Life is still a beautiful place to be. Still surrounded by love, joy, peace and hope.

We may dread the next chaos yet be determined to address the coming changes as better people. To approach our modifications not as we once were, but better versions of ourselves.

I believe it is important to monitor how we have changed, how we reacted to the chaos. We cannot learn if we do not reflect and analyze. When there is a disturbance in the force, the chaos of change may creep ever closer.

We do not have to let chaos destroy us.

Even the Divine Three warn that everything will eventually change. Foundations will shake (Psalm 82:5). Earthquakes in various places. Wars and rumors of wars. Peril and danger on every street. The love people once had for God and others growing cold.

We have seen past chaos turn into positive change:

  • Civil rights legislation making us more aware of how skin color divides us
  • Revivals around the world that pointed societies back to the God who loves us
  • A national conversation about the abuses of children, i.e. the MeToo movement

Experience teaches us that some change will never happen unless we embrace the chaos. Acknowledge how it happened. Fix its source. Make the important changes.

Sometimes I hate the observation that pushes me toward reflective melancholy. Growth hurts. Too much stretching becomes a stress.

Yet by changing what is negative and moving toward what is better, we become stronger. More able to face the next chaos with realistic expectations underscored by hope.

As chaos fades, peace can replace it. New normals can surface. Empower us to love God and love others in deeper ways.

And eventually, if we let it — the chaos will fade and leave a halo of shining Hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

The book of the month is Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms. Help a single mom reach through her chaos to find hope.