Hope Shares a Vision

For several years, this vision has been floating from my heart to my head and back again. I have tried to ignore it and push it back from whence it came, because acting on it seemed superfluous.

country-manorBut recently, the vision has resurfaced because I have met more women in need.

Here’s the problem: Numerous single women who are active in ministry struggle to find affordable housing. They manage nonprofits, meet the needs of the underprivileged and fill the gaps the churches cannot or will not attempt.

These brave women use their giftings to impact the world yet struggle to make a living. They are at the mercy of landlords who keep upping the rent or they own houses they can no longer maintain or sell without losing more money.

Currently, I know three of these women personally who are living in temporary housing, struggling to find a safe place they can afford and continue doing the ministry God has called them to do.

Here’s the vision: Remodel an old school or an old motel into beautiful apartments for these women. Each woman would have her own space yet she would be sharing in a community of others who could encourage her and become a sort of family.

Like a convent – only nondenominational.

This vision needs an investor who is willing to embrace the need and is interested more in caring for these women than making a bundle of money. Each woman’s rent would be based on her income and a percentage of what the utilities might cost.

Someone would have to manage the property and requirements for acceptance would have to be decided. But the administrative piece is the easy part. Finding the investor and the property is the tough part.

I can imagine several places around the Kansas City Metro that might fulfill the vision. Perhaps a place in the country where women could walk, garden or find solace from ministry demands.

This vision is not insurmountable. A group of women in the UK have seen it happen.

So I’m posting this idea on my blog, hoping someone will see it who can help with the plight of these women. Since I keep thinking and praying about this wondrous idea, I believe it is possible.

Hope continues in this new year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this vision find its reality in 2017?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Lives in Small Towns

After a recent trip to my hometown, I was struck again with the functional differences between the KC Metro and Enid, Oklahoma.enid

In my hometown, most businesses close for Easter to allow families time together. The majority of signs and billboards carry the graphic of either a cross or an empty tomb while the local newspaper prints the Easter story in the King James Version.

Folks in my hometown understand the symbolism of the season and aren’t shy about declaring their belief in God.

On Good Friday, our family moseys over to the Western Sizzlin’ for a huge salad buffet, well-done steaks and the ice cream machine.

Mosey is a word we don’t use in KC because nobody moseys in the city. Yet in small towns, folks mosey across the intersections, mosey into the stores and lollygag at anyone who doesn’t know how to mosey.

In my hometown, you will likely run into relatives, a colleague or someone from your church. And even if you make a new acquaintance at the ice cream machine, it will be a friendly conversation.

“Weather treatin’ ya’ okay?”

“Yep. You?”

“Can’t complain.”

“You from here or just visitin’?”

Someone who knows my family will inevitably challenge me with the question, “When you movin’ back here to help take care of your mama?”

Folks in small towns grow loyal families to populate the town, support the schools and run the businesses. If you leave, you’d better have a good reason and if you’re a really decent person, you’ll move back and make your family happy.

That’s why hope grows in small towns. Because everyone hopes you will move back, help with mama and increase the population by at least one.

When I visit my hometown and mosey into the stores, I pick up the Okie accent that never really leaves my tongue. I drive more slowly and don’t take chances at the yellow lights because I’m not in a hurry.

At Braums – where everybody goes for an ice cream fix in the afternoon – I wave at strangers and talk about the wheat crop.

Although the world is rapidly changing, folks in small towns still trust each other and somehow mosey their way into each other’s hearts.

Obviously, I miss small towns and the heritage they provide. I miss the folks I know and those I don’t know, because their lives are simpler, purer and steeped in the values of country traditions.

These precious folks live somewhat sheltered lives, safe within their bungalows and the farm lanes they drive in their pickup trucks. They treasure family and work ethics while hanging on to the faith of their ancestors.

Although I know my work is here in the KC Metro, a weekend visit is all it takes to transport me back to the security of my foundation and the people who keep hope alive.

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

A Valentine for Reverend G

“Wear your walkin’ shoes,” Chris spoke over the phone line. “I’ll be there in about 15.”

How was I so lucky to have a friend like Chris who recently graduated into a boyfriend? Was it appropriate to call a man in his early sixties a “boy”friend? I suppose I wasn’t a “girl”friend either, with my long white braid that hung over my shoulder and my early-onset Alzheimer’s that hung over what was left of my mind.

But here he was, dressed in bright blue sweats that contrasted nicely with his own white hair and the blue specks in his eyes. My guy friend, holding open the door for me, his Valentine date.valentine heart

We drove in his Caddie to downtown Lawton Springs and parked in one of the special lots that gave us at least two hours to roam. Downtown attracted tourists as well as the college students and locals, even on a warmer-than-average day in February.

Funky boutiques blended in with the national franchises. Starbucks next to Fannie Mae’s Linens, Minsky’s Pizza right across from the sparkly Gallery on the Glow. Even as close as Lawton Springs sat in latitude and longitude to Kansas City Metro, hundreds of people shopped in our city. It was, as the newspaper often quoted, “America’s Greatest Little Town.”

As we walked hand-in-hand along the sidewalk, we saw young people from the college and heard the dialects of international tourists with their Samsung cameras slung over their shoulders.

“Hi, Doctor Jacobs,” called one kid as he passed us on the street. Chris waved his hello, then told me, “One of my students from Theology 101.”

Then a former parishioner whose name I forgot because my Sometimer’s took over. Fortunately, he remembered my name as he tipped his KC Royals baseball cap and said, “Afternoon, Reverend G. God is good all the time.”

“Indeed,” I answered. Good all the time. God was good to give me this sunshiny and slightly brisk day with Chris, as we strolled along like two kids in their first waves of puppy love, knowing all the while that my days of any type of remembrance were numbered.

But hey – live each moment and in each moment. Wasn’t that what I always told my congregation? I think that’s what I said. It had been a while since I stood in front of them and preached something practical yet biblical. Months…days…years…I don’t know.

Chris steered me into the Brownie Bomb, another local franchise that served absolutely scrumptious ice cream with all natural ingredients. Little red tables and chairs invited us to sit while Chris gave the lady behind the counter our orders.

I knew they didn’t stock my usual Chunky Monkey, but Chris ordered my second favorite: the actual Brownie Bomb – bits of brownie batter with extra chocolate chips and a dollop of marshmallow crème on the top. Chris was more of a cherry and nuts man, so he ordered the Cherry Whiz with pecans all over it. Then he filled little Dixie cups with water and brought them to our table. In a few minutes, the lady brought us our ice cream, spoons and napkins.

We dug in, each of us doing our “Yum” sounds as we enjoyed the sugary treats. Then Chris reached into his back pocket and pulled out a red envelope.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Tru,” he said, pushing the envelope toward me.

“Well, thanks, Big Guy. I forgot to get you one, but you know…Sometimer’s and all.”

Chris nodded, and his eyes sparkled as I focused on his face. I slowly opened the envelope, then laughed as several of those candy hearts dropped out. “U R my Sugar” was stamped on one of them. Another one said, “Honey Bun.”

Chris and I took turns eating them, then he said, “Aren’t you going to open the card and read it?”

“Oh, sure.”

Inside, the pretty scroll writing said, “Be mine,” and beside it, in the block letters of Chris’s handwriting, “Please.” Below was a bigger candy heart taped to the card with the letters, “Marry Me” stamped on it.

I pulled the tape off and dunked the heart into my ice cream, then plopped it into my mouth. Chris waited while I chewed, then he took my hand and kissed my fingers, one by one.

“So what do you say, Tru?” he finally asked. “Will you be mine? Won’t you say ‘yes’ and marry me?”

Everything in me wanted to jump across the table and into his arms, repeating “Yes, yes, yes” a thousand times. But one wall still remained before I could make that leap. My fear of marrying a man I might soon forget. My knowledge that the dementia and Alzheimer’s that even now crackled inside my brain might one day change my personality to the point that this incredible guy sitting across from me would actually grow to hate the wife I would become.

I swallowed the last crumbles of the heart, then reached for a drink from my Dixie cup. “Chris, you know I love you. I just can’t marry you yet, not until I have absolute peace about it and my fear is gone. Can you give me just a little more time?”

Chris stood up and leaned over the table. He kissed me on the forehead, then cradled my face in his hands. “My darling Tru, I want you to be certain about this decision. And I’ll wait until you are absolutely sure, but in the meantime….” This time, a kiss right on the mouth. “In the meantime, you’re my Valentine, forever and ever.”

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

Hope Offered by Anne Lamott

As an author, I always hope my words will impact readers, but sometimes this goal reverses. Sometimes I find myself changed by another writer’s work.

love God love peopleOne of those writers for me is Anne Lamott.

This week, I was thrilled to attend a presentation by Anne Lamott right here in Kansas City. Anne was, as I expected, witty as well as inspirational. As tired as she was from a busy book tour, she once again reminded me of how she has impacted my faith walk.

Since I became a Christian as a young child, my faith has evolved and grown through several transformations. During those early years of belief, I’m not sure I truly comprehended the power of God’s love nor did I understand exactly what Jesus had saved me from.

How many sins can a four-year old confess? I simply fell in love with Jesus.

But it was legalism that scarred my faith. During my challenging adolescent and teenage years, I was taught how I needed to perform and submit in order to keep God’s love. Legalism 101.

Any mistakes brought an immediate need for confession, hoping the faith teachers and other saints would somehow forget my errors and God would forgive. The shame pit rapidly grew deep as I could never quite dig myself out and be holy enough.

Then Anne Lamott entered my life through her books. Here was a Christian who was authentic, yet not afraid to confront God with her doubts. She showed me how creative God is – how he uses every possible avenue to draw people to his Son.

It was okay for Anne to eat M&M’s for dinner, to occasionally use raw language and to write with a graphic honesty. She showed me that being real meant being true to myself, others and God – how to stop carrying that burden of perfectionism.

Her books underscored the truth that learning faith is a lifelong journey and no one really knows my heart except God. Beyond that, I am not responsible to make everyone else accept me.

As I studied more about faith, searched the interpretation of scriptures as a whole and opened my wounded mind, I saw how so much faith-learning was based in fear. If leaders could determine for themselves what was right and wrong through tradition or prejudice, then they could control others and prevent any radicalism. Legalism 201.

What they forgot to teach was that Jesus was one of the most radical and authentic people who has ever lived. He ate with sinners, associated with people whom society and religion called untouchable. He respected women and had the gall to say, “Hey, everybody. Just two important rules. Love God and love each other.”

What freedom I found in his authentic life and Anne’s words, in her mantra of the three most important prayers, “Help. Thanks. Wow!”

I reveled in her salvation story – how God pursued her when she wasn’t interested. She never worried about being good enough because she didn’t care about pleasing God or comparing herself with others. Yet God cared about her and loved her into belief.

For me – this was a new definition of grace.

I look forward to reading her newest book, “Small Victories – Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” I’m reserving special quiet time to ruminate over her words. I know already that I will love the book and probably learn more about being authentic.

So I am grateful for the hope offered by Anne Lamott. I pray that someday my words will so impact my readers that they will grow in faith and learn the joy of freedom in Christ.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

 

 

The Encouragement of the Geese

Several years ago, during a time of great struggle, God sent the geese.

I was driving to work and fighting discouragement, when a flock of geese flew right over my truck. They were so beautiful, so fluid in their movement and so determined in their purpose – I felt encouraged.

geese flyingI knew that the same Creator who gave the geese the instinct to fly in a V, would also direct my life. Since then, every time I see geese, I praise God for his provisions and his direction.

And the geese keep appearing. On my way to an interview, geese waddle all over the lawn near the building where I meet the interviewer.

Driving all over Kansas City for speaking events, flocks of geese fly over me. Every time I drive to Oklahoma to see Mom in assisted living, geese pepper the sky. They remind me that God knows where I’m headed and He knows how to help me through it.

God keeps sending the geese.

One morning, I met a woman for a networking meeting. She gave me some ideas, but no definite answers. Later, as I drove to a luncheon appointment, I thought about the networking lead.  I wondered what God had in mind and if I should research more about the idea.

I turned into an access road and right in the middle of the road were four geese, leisurely waddling along the asphalt. They seemed in no hurry, but completely comfortable to let me wait for them. I laughed out loud.

“Thank you, God. Here are the geese once again – not at all frustrated because life is stressful. Just doing what they do best – waiting for a signal from you to fly.”

When life unravels with Alzheimers, illness or stress, ask God for encouragement and a sign that he has it all under control.

Maybe he’ll send you some geese.

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