Hope Begins in the Mind

mindWe are a combination of body, mind, soul and spirit. As such, we are intertwined into a complex mixture with one aspect affecting the others.

It’s easy to focus on our bodies, especially when something goes wrong and we’re in pain. Or we sense one of the symptoms of Covid-19 and cry, “Please God! No!”

The soul — personality, will, emotions and the spirit side of us — that invisible fog that exists already in an eternal state don’t seem to bother us much. We can almost forget they exist until something goes haywire and forces us to confront that deep inner well.

But the mind — now that is another matter. It’s a constant badgering of negativity, a discourse in fear, a reminder that our connectivity to body, soul and spirit begins and ends with how we think.

And I can prove it. I can be totally not hungry, but a commercial comes on or I read a recipe and suddenly I want chocolate chip cookies.

Or I can be completely content with my daily life until I’m reminded by a stack of mail that I am indeed aging and in need of a hearing aid, more health insurance or end-of-life decisions, i.e. “Buy your cremation package now.”

Add to that the fact that I’m in the demographic most likely to die from Covid-19 and my mind plays out scary scenarios. Suddenly, I’m limping through life.

So how do we defeat the beast of the mind? How do we keep from losing hope when our brain tells us circumstances are indeed hopeless?

Watch What You Read. A friend I respect is several years older than I. On one of my gloomier days I asked him, “How do you stay encouraged as you age?”

“Pay attention to what you read,” he said. In other words, be careful what you feed your mind.

A delicate balance sways between staying informed and being brain-washed by what we read. We can tip either way — too afraid to embrace others’ opinions and respect them in spite of differences or too tepid to make up our own minds.

What we read on the internet is not always accurate. I’m not blasting the “fake news” mantra that has been used to perpetuate its own fake deceptions. I just know as a writer I’ve found inaccuracies in fact-checking. Not everything out there is true, no matter which website you read.

Some sites are meant for sarcasm, not truth. Some quotes are taken out of context. Even some Bible verses have been misinterpreted and used to vilify evil practices.

We need a combination of resources so that we can mentally debate what IS right versus what SOUNDS right. And we need to keep focused not on how our minds twist the truth but rather on how the truth actually plays out in our lives.

Watch What You Hear. In the cacophony of our world, few truly know how to listen well.

I have been trained as a coach in how to listen for the hidden undertones, to look for the motivation behind the action. That practice has served me well.

How many of us have misspoken or wished we could revisit a conversation with a new perspective?

Analytical thoughts often visit me at night:

  • I wish I had said . . . .
  • Why did I add my particular opinion to this empty conversation?
  • God, they misunderstood me. I need to make that right.

If we don’t hear correctly, we cannot respond with truth. Sometimes I think we all need spiritual hearing aids.

Watch What You Believe.

My son and I had a conversation about the Nazi’s and how the German society believed they were following the right course with Adolf Hitler.

After the United States liberated Europe and freed the Jews in concentration camps, some Germans admitted to sensing something was wrong. But they were hypnotized by Hitler’s charisma. He told lies often enough, they believed him to be telling the truth.

Deception works because it’s so tricky. It tells just enough truth to lead us astray and soon — our minds are trapped within its ugly claws. Satan used it against Adam and Eve.

It still works today.

During this season of political intrigue, Covid-19 illness and the unrest of a nation that needs to wake up — I pray every day for truth to win.

Truth is a core value that can clear the mind from the fog of “what if” to reach toward the horizon of “this way.”

Finding hope within truth first begins with a cleansing of the eyes, being careful of what we read. Then follows a clarity of what we hear, truly learning to listen well. And finally, a pure heart that knows its beliefs are centered in truth.

What we read, what we hear and what we believe must draw us steadily to what is true. Otherwise, hope itself will be deceived.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

As we strive to find the truth, Hope Shines.

Hope and the BLESS System

During the summer of 2017, my church is utilizing a system to BLESS our neighborhoods. The acrostic works like this:

  • Begin with Prayer
  • Listen and Engage
  • Eat (because we all connect better while we’re eating)
  • Serve Others
  • Story (be willing to share your faith story)

Although I like this concept, I am purposely NOT engaging in this system. Not that I disagree with any of it – I’m just pulling back from any kind of service while I recover from ministry exhaustion.

The ironic beauty of this BLESS system is that God Himself is helping me engage with him. He is blessing me.woman - worship

It’s almost a replay of how God took care of Elijah when he was discouraged and depressed after a massive battle. (If you want to read that story, check out First Kings 19.)

Now, I don’t believe I am anywhere close to being a powerful servant such as Elijah.

I just know God loves me and he’s taking care of me.

Here’s how it works:

Begin with Prayer: At times, I’ve been so depleted, the only prayer words I could speak were “God oh God” or “Jesus, help!” But the sweet truth is that God still heard me. We don’t have to pray a certain way or follow a formula for Abba Father to hear the cries of our hearts.

[Read more about Redefining Prayer]

Listen and Engage: In the quiet of the night when all I hear is the cat’s snores – I sense God near. He is listening to me and for me, and I for him. Sometimes he speaks a verse I’ll look up and journal through. Sometimes it’s just the inner warmth of knowing he’s engaging and connecting with me. I love that. Sometimes it’s whole paragraphs of guidance and truth.

Being listened to = being loved.

Eat: This piece of the acrostic is a bit more eclectic because I’m not talking about real food. Although a healthy recovery does include nutritious eating as in blueberries, dark chocolate, lots of water, repeat.

Emotional and spiritual eating means filling my mind with the words of God and helpful books – fiction and nonfiction. I am inhaling without exhaling, filling up my emotional bucket that has been scraped raw. This type of eating never adds empty calories, but spiritual nutrition flows into every tissue and emotional gap.

Serve Others: It seems impossible to turn off the button of ministering to others. Sometimes I have to catch myself and say, “No! You cannot organize and promote a new ministry, no matter how much it is needed. Stop it!

I am letting go of all expectations and reveling in how God is serving me.

Now, I know some of you out there in cyberspace are thinking, How selfish! Who does she think she is? What would Jesus do?

I’ll tell you what Jesus would do. He would climb right up in Abba’s lap and tell the Holy Spirit to come and comfort him.

When he walked on this earth, Jesus rowed across the lake and took some down time. He had weekend getaways at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He strolled through a garden and prayed, inhaling the presence of God so he would have strength later to heal and save.

So don’t judge me. I’m telling you Abba is such a personal God he knows when to send me an encouraging word.

He calls me to the deck at just the right time so I can watch a rabbit nurse her bunnies. He commands a flock of geese to fly over me with joyful honks. He whispers to a baby in Wal-Mart who turns around and gives me a single-toothed grin. He plants a book in my hands that helps me understand how ministers become codependent. He tells someone to send me a check so I can pay that climbing electric bill. He heals my son so I don’t have to live in worry.

God knows exactly what I need and when I need to be reminded how much he loves me.

Story: I’ve just shared part of my story with you. It continues to grow and the plot lines interweave. More will be coming in the weeks ahead.

Keep checking in with me to see how God wraps hope around every gift, how he is himself the author of hope.

The guideline God is helping me learn is this: it’s okay to take care of yourself. That means telling others “No” when they ask you to do something. It means setting healthy boundaries. It might even mean getting away from the mess.

So that’s where my story is so far. I’m sticking to it. Be blessed and let God bless you.

©2017 RJ Thesman

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