Hope Finds Its Sanctuary

Praying_HandsDuring the winter months, I often journal and pray in the bathroom. My bathroom is tiny, so it’s the warmest room in the house. I sit on the heater vent, put a pillow behind my back and proceed to write my thoughts and communicate with God.

I figure God knows all about our physical bodies anyway and he doesn’t care where we meet – as long as we continue the relationship.

In the movie, “Oh God,” John Denver was embarrassed when God showed up while he was taking a shower.

“What?” God said, a la George Burns. “You think I don’t know what your body looks like? I made you.”

So I figure God doesn’t care that his daughter needs to stay warm and chooses the bathroom to keep from freezing even while her heart forms words of praise.

It seems a strange place to set up sanctuary, but then again – I’m close to the Kleenex if I cry and the cat also likes spending time with me in private places.

One of my friends, however, chooses a different way to worship – on the broad plains of Kansas or tucked into a booth at a unique coffee shop. Jane Tucker writes on her blog about wonderful Midwest locations as she revels in the expanse her camera sees, the grasses of the Flint Hills and the sun-colored flatlands of her homeland Iowa. Her blog’s tag line “Postcards from the Heartland” aptly describes the homey feel of her verbiage and the joy of finding the divine within natural wonders.

Her worship is just as genuine as mine, although hers is a wide and colorful expanse while mine is in a tiny room.


I have a feeling God loves spending time with his children and he doesn’t really care how we worship. Whether we dance with colorful scarves, sing off-key in the shower or sway to the harmonies of an old hymn – the important point is that we take time to meet with our maker.


The poet King David described places of worship, “From the ends of the earth” or “Within the sanctuary” or “With all that is within me.”

Places and people vary yet the creativity of methods to thank God for his many blessings helps us treasure relationship with him.

So wherever we are and however we choose, let’s find our sanctuary and plant hope by spending time with God.

Among my followers, I’m wondering where and how you worship? Do any of you find joy in a tiny room? Or is your worship best expressed within the confines of the traditional church building? Does a particular location stir you to praise the God who created you?

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

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

 

How to Celebrate a Character’s Life

Because characters are so essential to novels, writers spend hours developing character sketches, running personality assessments on pretend people and recording the information in a workbook or on a vision board.

Since 2010, I have developed the character of Reverend G. I have lived with the voice of this gutsy little minister inside my head and written from her viewpoint what it feels like to experience dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s. Now that the final book is scheduled for release on August 21, I feel a sense of loss. Rev G 3 Cover

Reverend G fought Alzheimer’s with faith and hope, but she no longer wakes me up at four o’clock in the morning or reminds me that she wants to wear her long white braid draped over her left shoulder. She no longer scolds me when I am too tired to write down a piece of dialogue on the notepad beside my bed. She no longer challenges me to find just the right word that will describe how Zim – her word for Alzheimer’s – is stealing her away piece by piece.

Reverend G’s voice has gone silent.

So to acknowledge the loss and help me move on, my Saturday Sisters decided to initiate a memorial service.

Sat sisters - mem serviceThese sisters and I have done life together for over 20 years. We have prayed together, shared parenting tips and cheered for our Jayhawks. Except for me, they all live in Lawrence, Kansas.

A few weeks ago, I drove to meet them at our usual gathering place, to celebrate together the life and legacy of Reverend G. We began with an introduction and the Lord’s Prayer because this prayer provided an important plot twist at the beginning of Reverend G’s dementia symptoms.

Then I gave a summary of the character sketch, recalling how Reverend G has grown and changed since the first book and how readers told me they appreciated her strength, her faith and the way she honestly cries out to God with, “I can’t stand it!”

Each of the Saturday Sisters shared their favorite stories from the two previous books, then we read Reverend G’s favorite verses: Psalm 46:10, Psalm 43:5 and Psalm 91:1-2.

A sweet warmth permeated the room as we sang two of Reverend G’s favorite songs: “Let It Be” by the Beatles and the wonderful old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” To round out the musical selections, we harmonized through a few verses of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Then we prayed for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as the caregivers who patiently listen to the same stories repeated over and over and watch their loved ones regress into childhood.

We prayed for my mom and for the other moms represented around the table, sad that we can no longer “just call Mom” when we have a problem, grateful for the years we shared yet grieving for the fading away of relationships as our mothers now sometimes forget us.

After our prayer, it was time for the luncheon. Don’t we always follow the sorrow of memorial services with the sustenance and fellowship of food?

The menu included tuna balls (in honor of Gabriel, Reverend G’s cat), cowboy caviar, gluten free blueberry muffins, Reverend G’s blueberry salad, the choice of raspberry or plain lemonade and for dessert – of course – Chunky Monkey ice cream.rev g memorial lunch

My precious Saturday Sisters spent a day encouraging me, believing that the character God and I created had made an impact on the lives of my readers.

When we hugged goodbye – it was with joy and hope that someday Alzheimer’s will be defeated and no one will ever forget their loved ones again.

Although Alzheimer’s still destroys pieces of my mother’s brain and my family still walks through this journey of forgetting – I can now – as a writer – move on.

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

Hope Finds Holiness in Surprising Places

During a recent trip to Fort Scott, Kansas, my friend and I discovered a wonderful coffee shop. Our chai lattes tasted spicy yet mellow, and the missional atmosphere of this shop impressed us.Rev G quote on Ft Scott wall

Their bookshelves were filled with classics and some Christian fiction. I donated the Reverend G books and promised to bring the third book after its release in August.

But we were most interested in the church service advertised for Sunday morning, so we put it on our calendars and showed up along with about 30 other folks of all ages.

I looked around the room and thought, what a wonderful way to attract those who might be curious about faith. A great way to think outside the box!

I was a bit disappointed when we were handed bulletins – not so outside the box – but even churchy habits are hard to break.

The video sermon was taken from Romans. Seriously? Romans? How can you attract seekers with one of Paul’s most verbose books, a treatise even seasoned believers find difficult to understand.

But it soon became apparent that everyone in attendance was a believer or a seasoned church-goer so we discussed righteousness, legalism and how to determine God’s will.

A lovely young woman sang and accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar. We relaxed and enjoyed her melodies, interspersed with whooshes from the espresso machine. It was fun to meet saints from another town who worship the same God and aren’t afraid to welcome strangers.

Then a wonderful surprise greeted us as we left the building. Across the street was a colorful wall with a unique wooden door – Tuscan colors and the rough textures I love. We each took pictures while my creative mind immediately jumped to the questions: What’s on the other side of that door? What kind of novel can I plot with this door and this wall as the main focus?

Hope finds believers in interesting and surprising places all over the world. We so often root ourselves in our comfortable church pews where it’s easy to snooze through our own spirituality.

But when we move outside our comfortable walls and experience church in different settings, we breathe a fresh invite into the family that makes us Christian.

I’m encouraged to find pockets of believers in various places, worshiping in unique ways and spreading the love of Jesus without the confines of traditional walls. The texture and color of different congregants provide a rich setting for the stories we are all writing within our spiritual selves.

I think God must be glad about these creative venues. He is always able to create a new plan even while His attributes remain the same.

And as one of those creative types who yearns for more spiritual experiences outside the norm, I, too, am glad and filled with hope.

©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 Brews in a Local Coffee Shop

As research for my current WIP, I spent a Friday morning at a local coffee shop. Kansas Coffee Company sits on the corner of Park and Cherry in downtown Olathe, Kansas – across from the Johnson County Courthouse.kansas coffee cafe

I like this place because the owners support local artists and keep my Reverend G books stocked on the shelf under the counter.

But I also like the peaceful ambiance of this local establishment where I can write alone, sip my chai latte and smile at the customers who rings the bell when they pull open the door.

The smell of mocha and espresso provides a comforting backdrop to the sounds of a thriving business. Still, this place breathes the atmosphere of small town America and reminds me that hope resides within the characters and temperaments of small towns.

I appreciate the healthy menu of hummus and almonds, cottage cheese and toasted ciabatta, but I am tempted by the muffins that perch on the top of the bakery case. Giving in would put me a day behind on my after-the-holidays-try-to-be-good-diet. So I resist and gripe inwardly about my abstinence-imposed misery.

The tables and chairs, an eclectic mix of glass-covered art invite customers to sit and chat a while. No booths isolate us from each other. We temporarily connect, virtual strangers who have nothing in common other than our need for a hot drink on a cold January day.

For me, the writer in the corner, I find escape from the chores at home, the electronic buzz of machines that rule my world and try to stifle my creativity.

Somehow, being the writer at the cafe and persisting in my craft while in a public place somehow gives me credibility. Like Hemingway and his tromp through Paris with journal in hand, I find a peaceful momentary existence among strangers who somehow relate by giving our business to this place of connectivity.

And because two of the major characters in my WIP plan and dream at their fictional coffee shop, I find new relationship with my characters. For a few hours on a Friday morning, I share reality with fictional people.

Hope brews in this setting, hope that more customers will support this coffee shop and buy my books while they’re here. Hope beats within me that my new novel will encourage readers and because I do research here, my words will retain their honesty and authenticity.

In this place, anything seems possible.

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

Hope in a Love Language

On this blog, I have mentioned the importance of my deck. Because I love nature and the fresh beauty of the outdoors, my deck becomes a sanctuary – the place where I most often meet with God.20141002_182454

On my deck, cardinals chirp a chorus from their beautiful repertoire. Blue jays squawk while squirrels run across the deck railing and try to steal food from the feeder. I study the clouds and the way the sun outlines their fluffy exteriors at dusk. On my glider, I rock back and forth in time to the songs I sing to the Creator of everything I see and hear.

But the past couple of years, my sanctuary has been marred by the weathering of nature. I wondered how long my deck would last when the next winter blasted through our Kansas heartland. Never treated, the wood showed wear and made me worry about the dollars and time involved to fix it. I didn’t know how to deal with it, and I had little time to Google “deck staining.”

Then one weekend in September, a most marvelous occurrence took that worry away. Two deacons from my church and my wonderful son stained my deck. I had no idea that a stain could be so beautiful. Sienna brown was the color. Fantastic was my adjective.

These three men worked all day and made sure that every part was sufficiently covered. As I surveyed the finished results, I was amazed at how the color added richness to my terracotta pots yet contrasted splendidly with the creamy yellow of my home’s siding.

My primary love language is acts of service, and lately – I have felt the depletion of my soul’s resources. I knew I needed some TLC – somehow. In this act of service, this staining of a single mom’s deck, these men provided that care and helped to once again fill up my love tank.

I worship God for the way these men underscored what the church is supposed to be as we help each other with practical needs. And in my sanctuary of the outdoors, I thank God for the kindness offered me on one Saturday in September.

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