Hope Mourns the Sparrow

One of the joys of my life arrives every morning when I feed the birds.

I am praying my new place will include a small back yard where I can pour out the seed, call to the birds and watch these amazing creatures float toward me.Jesus Calling - Sept 1

But last week, we had a surprise visitor. A huge hawk swooped down, rapidly chose his prey and killed one of my sparrows. With sharp talons, he easily lifted his breakfast from my deck, then disappeared in the early morning fog.

Most of the time, we don’t pay attention to sparrows. We are attracted to the flashy cardinals, the sweet chickadees and even the raucous blue jays with their blue and silver details.

Sparrows are just the extra birds that fly near us, their plain brown feathers almost an invisible blend on weathered decks. Perhaps an afterthought in the creator’s mind, the bird with which to compare all the others.

Sparrows don’t seem to matter much. Unless you’re one of them.

During this transition time, I empathize with the sparrow. I feel as if the flashy authors of the world have passed me by, and I am trying to catch up.

Other ministers and writers have spent years honing their careers while I stayed in the background, worked in administrative roles, quietly pointed the mouse and clicked on Excel charts.

Others developed speaking ministries, world-wide podcasts and reams of manuscripts while I worked three jobs to raise my son and try to survive.

“Bless me, too, my Father,” is often the cry of my heart.

Now…during this time of the unknowns, I feel even more sparrow-ish than before. My own drab browning pales in comparison with those who seem to have it so easy.

Yes, I know this sounds like whining. But I struggle between authenticity, the brutal honesty of the heart and a complaining spirit. I wish I knew the difference.

I want to see my own dreams come to pass even as I know the desires of my heart may not necessarily sync with the whispers of the divine.

Predators of discouragement and fear stalk me. So quickly, they sharpen their talons and wait for my most vulnerable moments to swoop in and destroy hope.

Yet some days – praise God – more days than not – I remember how God cares for even the sparrow.

Not one of us falls without his knowledge and empathic tears. Each of us, though feeling drab, are still painted with his art – each feather delicate in his design.

I replay a favorite hymn, grateful for the internet and the YouTube software that makes it easily accessible.

His eye indeed on this sparrow. My heart secure in the knowing that he cares for me.

Sparrows of the past are still mourned. Each one a creation missed, a relationship betrayed, an opportunity denied.

Yet the One who created them in the first place still exists and promises an even better life to come.

Here’s to all of us sparrows in the world. We occupy important spaces in the universe, each of us here for a purpose – for a time.

May we embrace our lives for what they represent, a glorious praise for the presence of each day and a supreme hope for a better tomorrow.

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

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Hope Nudges Forward

When we wait on God for answers, it sometimes feels as if he is testing our patience. How long will she wait until she breaks – until she steps out and tries to make something happen on her own?Southwest Puzzle

Throughout my life, I have learned the hard way to wait on God. When I step forward too soon and try to force something to happen – it ends either in tragedy, lost revenue or additional stress.

Then later, I am filled with regret and play the “I should have” game.

So during this limbo period, I have tried to wait patiently and seek God’s direction every step of the way. When I feel anxious, I deal with it by posting on my blog.

You’ve probably noticed.

After approximately two years of limbo land where I sensed major changes on the horizon, I have learned more about patience – about waiting on God – about living in joy even during the uncertainty.

My journals are full of the lessons God has taught me, and this blog has been populated with posts I shared with you.

Beginning to Move Forward

Within the last two weeks, God has nudged me forward. He is asking me to make some major decisions and to step out in faith, then watch him fill in the gaps.

Simultaneously, I finished my Southwest puzzle, framed it and hung it on the wall. It has been a reminder that something in the eternal puzzle is completed and now comes the next step.

When faced with major decisions, I often ask five questions:

  • What do I sense God is telling me about this decision?
  • What does scripture remind me or instruct me about this decision?
  • What do other godly people say and how do they advise me?
  • What do the circumstances tell me?
  • Do I have peace?

When the majority of these questions point in the same direction, then I know I am probably on the right track. I say “probably” because life is still an adventure and we can be deceived or influenced by our own desires rather than by eternal destinies.

But lately, I feel more at peace – knowing God is on my side, He has a good plan for me and ultimately whatever happens – he will bring it about for good.

Embracing the Promise

On a quiet Friday morning as warm August rain pittered down, I rejoiced that God once again watered my gardens. Then he called me to spend some intimate time with him. He had something important to share with me.

Throughout the next moments, he reminded me of several promises:

  • He will guide me and lead me in the best possible direction (Isaiah 49:10)
  • He will enlarge the place and the way I minister while strengthening me for the journey (Isaiah 54:2)
  • He has anointed and qualified me for this work (Isaiah 61:1)
  • He will plant me where I need to be (Isaiah 61:3)
  • He knows the acceptable and opportune time (Psalm 69:13)

Then he capped it off when an incredible promise, “Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your rightness, your justice and your right relationship with God shall go before you conducting you to peace and prosperity and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8 Amplified).


I sat on my bed, journal and Bible spread open before me, and wept at the beauty of this promise. God will heal and restore my weary soul. He will provide power for whatever new life I am walking into, but I won’t travel the journey alone. He will go before me and behind me. The result will be peace as he takes care of me.


So the first step of my obedience with him is that I am listing my duplex. I believe God wants me to sell it and get out of debt. Then he will show me where to go. I also believe he has indicated in which area I need to look for a rental house. He will provide that place for me.

God has always kept a roof over my head. He has provided beautiful and safe places for my son and me, homes where we could rest from work and just be ourselves.

God will not fail us now.

Are there still some unknowns? Of course. The faith journey always occurs in steps – never in one giant leap.

But for now, the puzzle is finished and hanging on the wall. God, too, has completed this section of puzzle pieces for me. Where he places me and what my role will be is his design. He will tell me what each step entails.Southwest Puzzle

I’m excited to be nudging forward.

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

 

 

Hope Thrives With a List

Because I process best while writing, I decided to make a list of what I’m looking for in a church.checklist

A perfect church does not exist – anywhere – because it is an organism teeming with fallible human beings. The minute I walk in, the dynamics of that church will change because I am not perfect.

So I know my list is only a series of guidelines, parameters I am looking for in a church body. But it helps me set my limits, to know exactly what I’m looking for and to eliminate any groups that don’t have at least 50 percent of what I need.

My list includes:

  • Jesus. He must be front and center. I want Jesus to be the focus, always. The church is, after all, the bride of Christ – the body that started with his disciples, men and women devoted to following the Son of God. This is one parameter where I will not waver. If you doubt my sincerity, re-read my post “Hope Reaffirms” about how I left the church that had no Jesus.
  • I need a church that looks at Scripture as an entire document and God-breathed inspiration. I will not attend a church that takes just one verse and makes a doctrine out of it. Legalism is dangerous. Been there. Done that. Finished with that forever and ever, Amen.
  • Humble leaders are paramount in the church of my dreams. To minister means to serve. I don’t want my pastors to preach from their strongholds or to demand special treatment just because they happen to be ordained. The pulpit should be a place from which to share truth, not to pontificate.
  • I do not want to hear politics from the pulpit. If I want to consider a political opinion, I will stay home and watch CNN.
  • One reason I am having a difficult time finding a church is because I believe in egalitarian theology. Jesus was the only religious leader in history who truly respected women and gifted them to serve in his kingdom. Scripture says, “In the last days sons AND daughters will prophesy.” Many churches say they respect women and their gifts, but will only let women practice certain gifts. They don’t practice what they preach (pun intended).
  • I want a church that is willing to learn and grow – not remain stagnant with what they’ve always done. Jesus broke the mold on traditionalism. Life-long learning is one of my core values, and I believe we can always learn more about God, about his love and about how to grow in relationship with him. My soul tires of the same old messages. I want to grow in my faith and in how to effectively be a disciple in my world.
  • God blesses churches that care about missions, but many churches are caught in the romanticism of travel. I believe mission also exists right on our doorsteps. I want my church to be active in the community; not just across the globe. I want us to help the people in the pews and in the apartment complexes and those who are sleeping on park benches.
  • Because I am a single mom, it is important to me that my church cares about the orphan and the widow, in every definition of the word. Fifty per cent of us have experienced the shattering of our marriages, and if the church doesn’t want that number to escalate – then they need to “be” the church and reach out to those children and their lonely mamas. I have attended churches where the leadership regularly quoted negative statistics about single moms and other churches that had vital programs to help single-parent families. I believe Jesus cares about every demographic.
  • I am looking for a church with diversity, a body that welcomes every age group and every race. Since heaven will be a mixture of every tribe, language and nation, we might as well start getting used to it.
  • One of the churches I visited filled almost all of my parameters, but they had no need for any of my giftings. I believe it is important to serve within the church. However, I need to be using my authentic gifts and not placed in a traditional gift box. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I should be relegated to holding babies in the nursery or organizing a pot luck. I can’t help it God made me a leader, a writer and a teacher. I’m a first born, for Pete’s sake. I want my church to accept who I am and believe God sent me their way so that I could fulfill a definite function.

In my visits to various churches, I have been encouraged by the numbers of lovely Christians, the various programs and the ways churches function effectively.


When we attend one church for many years, we may believe ours is the only place, the only way.


But many believers are striving to learn more about God, serving in their communities and the world, giving of themselves week after week as they worship together. It has been encouraging to me to find these bodies everywhere and to know we are all part of the family of God, brothers and sisters with one focus – to share God’s love to a lonely world.

One of the pastors I met said, “Don’t shop around for a church. Let the Holy Spirit draw you into community.”

I like that thought, and I am praying in hope for that direction. I believe someday, somewhere, I will find the place where I belong.

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

 

 

Rejuvenate with the Holy Nap

People either laugh at me or stare when I tell them about my holy naps.

I guard my Sabbath. Because I work about 60 hours/week and much of that involves ministry, I need to observe the 4th Commandment. I desperately need rest on Sundays.

Yes, I go to church and then usually, I spend some quality time with my son. The rest of the day is for rest and about an hour of that includes the holy nap.sleeping puppy

Naps are under-rated. We demand them of our young children, because we know that rest helps them grow and thrive.

But why not also for adults? A restorative nap of even 10 minutes can help refresh our minds and hearts.

So what happens during a holy nap? How is it different from a regular siesta in the middle of the day?

For me, it’s more than physical rest. My holy nap also involves handing over to God the burdens that have been placed on me during the week: crises in people’s lives, the uncertainties of our times, Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

We sometimes forget that ministers need encouragement, too. Reverend G reminds us that “Life is a puzzle. As we age, life adds layers to our personalities and our experiences. We learn more about trusting God, then we begin to see the great cycle of history play out in our genes. But Alzheimer’s, dementia and other crises exfoliate us. They takes away the layers of life until we’re back to childhood, no longer wise.”   http://amzn.to/11QATC1

So during my holy nap, I lay down the burdens of the week. I rest in the arms of God, usually starting with a prayer where I ask Jesus to intercede for all the people I know who need prayers.

When I fall asleep, the Holy Spirit takes over and I often wake up with new ideas for writing or a Bible verse to share with someone or a new and creative plan for a coaching client.

Always, I wake up refreshed – ready for another week and more of the ministries God has called me to.

So I recommend it – this small respite on a Sunday afternoon. Say “No” to extra activities on that day and put a guard around your busy heart.

Take a holy nap and be grateful.

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

The Secret of Yoder, KS

In the stillness of the morning, I meet with God – here at the Sunflower Inn in Yoder, Kansas.Sunflower Inn

Two friends join me for this weekend away, this girlfriend time that also counts as my sabbatical from ministry.

No flipping on the TV, no computer screen bleeping messages from cyberspace. Just my friends, God and me.

Birds sing morning allelujahs and I wait for something – that cacophony of sound that usually assaults me when I open my eyes.

But here in this quiet place, I do not hear it and feel blessed by its absence.

Traffic. The roar of engines and the hurry-to-work-revving is not present in this place.

I discover the secret solace of Yoder, Kansas. Amish buggies move silently except for the clopping of horses’ hooves on the pavement – a subtle sound that speaks of contented life without the scurry of automation.

Sunflower bedroomSunflowers decorate my room, a reminder of Kansas and of vibrant life that promises to burst forth as soon as winter gives way to spring.

And I am reminded of my own personal mantra that I share in speaking venues – when life unravels, take a break.

My soul, so grieved with the hurts I hear and see each day – needs this respite. My family is thick into the caregiving of our mother who struggles through Alzheimer’s. I need this time away.

Although brief, it is like a gulp of air to a woman who is drowning in the cares of life. The reminder that life is to be lived, and I have a purpose. Yet I do not need in this quiet place to even think on that purpose or to meet the needs of anyone besides myself.

And that is okay. It is not selfish to take time for self-care.

So I listen blissfully to the stereo of Yoder sounds: the trill of the birds and the mew of a kitten, the bellow of a cow begging to be milked and in the distance – the putt-putt of a tractor on its way to the fields.

Sounds of contented life in Amish country. Sounds I miss in the city life I lead. Sounds I need to hear on this sabbatical weekend.

Should God allow my timeline to continue, He will enable and equip me to meet others’ needs again. He will pour through me the abundance of His Spirit.

But for now, he bids me rest.

He whispers to me in this early morning hour from Psalm 54:4, “God is my helper, the Lord is the upholder of my life.”

Uphold me even today, Lord. Cup your hands around my face and pour into me your healing spirit. Bless me too, my Father, with your love in this quiet place.

Long Distance Caregiving – Emotional Dynamics

Living with Alzheimers and/or dementia causes a host of emotions—especially for caregivers.hands heart

Mom’s emotions aren’t that difficult. She lives in a contented land where all she has to worry about is where she put her teeth during the night and can she find her underwear the next day. Even then, somebody helps her with those questions.

But for the rest of us—whew boy! Until I entered this journey with my siblings, I had no idea of the emotions that might swirl around us.

As the LDC, there is of course, the emotion of guilt. But it is a false guilt, a self-condemnation because I can’t be in Oklahoma all the time, helping with Mom.

At the same time, I’m glad for my life in Kansas and the work I do. I’m proud of the ministry and the incredible women I help as well as my growing coaching practice and my writing life.

Guilt raises its ugly head whenever something happens, and I’m too far away to help. Then when I visit Mom, guilt rides home with me because I can drive away and my siblings can’t.

Another emotion that affects us is grief. One possible advantage of dealing with Alzheimers is that we grieve little by little rather than in one traumatic explosion. With each change and every increase in confusion, with each memory lapse, we grieve a little more.

We understand that these lapses will grow in frequency until Mom no longer knows who we are.

We also know that some day, Mom will stop breathing and this horrid journey will be over. So we don’t have to deal with a terrible shock of a tragic death. Mom dies a little bit every day, right in front of us.

Each time I drive to Oklahoma and then back to Kansas, it takes about 10 days to process my emotions, journal about them and return to some place of normalcy. I can only imagine the emotional toll on my siblings.

I don’t know if the emotions will ever ease, or if we’ll just grow in the need for more grace.

But that’s why it’s important that caregivers take care of ourselves—whether we’re right in the thick of it or dealing with it long distance.

Emotions can tear us apart or make us stronger. I hope to finish well.

Who is Reverend G?

 “The Unraveling of Reverend G” is scheduled for release August 6th, so you might wonder – who is this Reverend G character?

Character is the correct word, because she’s unlike most ministers you might know and love. She’s a bit feisty, but clearly humble and caring. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and she’s okay with being vulnerable. She doesn’t want anyone putting her up on a pedestal, because she wants people to look at the Savior, Jesus Christ.

During a time in history when few women enrolled in seminaries, Reverend G made sure it happened for her. She let the Dean of Admissions know that God Himself had called her into the ministry and she recited John 15:16 to underline her call. She worked hard and graduated summa cum laude, although Hebrew class gave her fits. That’s when she relied on her friend, Chris. In return, she helped him survive New Testament Survey.

For thirty plus years, she served her congregation and trained them to call her Reverend G. The G actually stands for her first name, Gertrude, which she hates. She married, raised a son and thoroughly enjoyed serving the people of Lawton Springs, Kansas.

But then she began to notice a few changes in herself. Names and faces didn’t always pair up during counseling sessions. She grew easily distracted whether playing in the bell choir or preparing her next sermon. Sometimes, she wore mismatched shoes and one day, she drove all the way to church before she realized she still had on her Tweety-Bird nightshirt. She found her iron in the freezer and right in front of God and everybody, she forgot some of the Lord’s Prayer.

That’s when she made the appointment to see Doc Sanders. He ordered several tests and consulted with specialists before telling her the dreaded news, “You have dementia and possibly early-onset Alzheimer’s.”

Reverend G’s work as a pastor ended, but her ministry did not. New people moved into her life –at the assisted living facility where she moved, within her family structure as well as a few surprise characters along the way. She faced the changes with fear knocking at her soul, and she wasn’t afraid to admit it.

So what happens to Reverend G? How does she deal with this horrid disease that threatens to change her personality and take from her the memories of those she loves?

Well, I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out.