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

Sometimes They Forget       Goals E-book Cover      Rev_G_Cover

 

 

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When Obedience Spawns Hope

Have you ever told God, “No!”

How did that work out for ya’?

Why-Who quoteTen years ago, God nudged me to write a book about the Biblical character, Abigail. He especially wanted me to focus on the fact that Abigail lived in an abusive marriage yet was strong enough to do what was necessary to save her household.

So I began writing the book, grateful for such a directed assignment. Then the divine whispered, “It’s a novel.”

I reminded God, “I don’t do fiction. For 30 years, I’ve written nonfiction.”

So after I researched all the material, I wrote a nonfiction book about women in abusive marriages with Abigail as the focus and completed the book in record time.

But I couldn’t sell it. No publisher wanted it, even though I knew it was a timely subject. The book’s pages sat unread in a box in my office. It must have been practice, I told myself.

Several years later, I woke up with a story in my head that I could not ignore because the core of it involved Alzheimer’s – the horrid disease that tormented my mother and was stealing her from us.

Within six months, the book was finished and a publisher wanted it. “The Unraveling of Reverend G” led to the second book, “Intermission for Reverend G.” The third and final book in the series will be released this year, and I’m still amazed that three novels are now in my credits.

Perhaps God birthed those words in me to teach me that I could indeed write fiction when he equipped me to do it.

Psalm 51:10 ends with the plea to “Renew a right spirit within me.” That right spirit includes being willing to follow God’s call, no matter what it involves.

For a writer, the willing spirit sometimes means stepping outside my comfortable routine and inviting a new genre or even a different focus than what I originally planned.

Writing the Reverend G books taught me that God knows more about my creativity than I do. He knows where the words originate within because he is the Word. And he knows how to pry them out of me, even when I’m not willing to let him weave it his way.

It’s a good reminder that our gracious God knows the end of the book and also how to make sure it happens. Even the willing spirit necessary for the author is a gift from his generous heart.

I’m glad for God’s patience with me and for his grace to give me another chance. When I’m afraid to say, “Yes” to those divine nudges, he grabs my hand and carefully guides me in the right direction.

Oh – and the Abigail book? I’m now revising it – as a novel.

I think I’ve learned an important lesson.

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

 

Promoting Our Words

As a published author, one of my duties includes marketing and promoting my book. I do this through social media, through speaking events and through this blog. I also work hard to find new outlets for my book and use every tool imaginable to market the words I write.3D Rev G cover

Sometimes it seems as if I’m trying to push myself on other people, just for the purpose of sales. I hate that. But the truth is…I worked hard to write my book, and I feel the words have meaning and purpose. I want the message about faith while dealing with Alzheimer’s to spread across the globe.

The main reason Christian authors work so hard is to promote the truth of the Gospel. Yes, of course, we want our books to sell as we continue to publish our words. Yes, of course, we want readers to ask for more. We long for agents, publishers and distributors to beg us for another book.

But the main purpose is the message. Always. We want more sales, because that means more and more people read about Jesus.

In our nonfiction, they find encouragement in their faith journey. In our fiction, they place themselves into the story and root for the hero or heroine, while waiting to see how faith impacts the outcome of the book.

In articles, poems, scripts – all sorts of genres, Christian writers become messengers of the Light as we hope and pray that somewhere in that vast configuration called the internet – someone reads the truth and finds peace.

As authors, we know that sometimes you tire of reading our promotional material. You skip over our Facebook posts because you’ve seen them before. We understand.

But we also hope that someone new sees the post for the first time. Maybe that person will buy our books, turn to a page that counsels her about God’s love and find the answer to her questions.

Whether our readers find us through books, blog posts or tweets, we thank God when we market His message and send it into the world.

Someday I hope to meet a soul in heaven who read my book and found it encouraging, helping him or her through the dark ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Someday I hope a reader sends me an email and says, “You helped me find my way back to God.” Someday I want to meet that great crowd of witnesses who cheered me on as I sat for hours in my cold office and typed out the words that burned in my heart.

This is why Christian writers promote our work. It’s because at the core of it all, we’re marketing Jesus Christ and his message of love.

We do it for Him, and we do it for you.

©2013 RJ Thesman

The Journey of a Novel – Step 1

For the past almost 40 years, I have written nonfiction. Four nonfiction books, 11 compilations and hundreds of published articles. With my Type-A personality and my spiritual gift of teaching, nonfiction has always been my comfort zone. And since I have had success with nonfiction, it also seemed to be my life’s genre. Tell the facts. Teach the reader.

Then God started healing me from some of those Type-A strongholds and stretching me away from comfort zones. The first step in the process seemed innocent enough, and truthfully – until I signed my latest publishing contract – I had not realized how important Step 1 actually was.

About four years ago, I was minding my own business as I listened to another writer teach a workshop. Like so often in life, I had no idea that a momentous turn of events was about to happen. During the workshop, I took notes and planned another nonfiction article. At the end of the evening, I won a free Writer’s Digest book – my choice.

For writers, the Writer’s Digest books are like the epistles of the Bible – great information in readable form. Most beginning writers can’t afford these books, so we spend hours in the library soaking in knowledge from best-selling writers who have found success. Since I now had the opportunity to own a free Writer’s Digest book, I jumped at the chance.

On the gift table were scores of books, all with fascinating titles and how-to instructions. I thumbed through the nonfiction books, looking for the one that might teach me how to sell more articles or how to become one of those best-selling authors. From the corner of my eye, a dark purple cover seemed to stand out. I pulled it out of the pack, but quickly put it back. “The Handbook of Novel Writing” certainly wasn’t the book I needed. I was, after all, a nonfiction writer – teller of facts, teacher of readers.

I tried for at least fifteen minutes to ignore that purple cover, but God kept whispering, “That’s the one. Take that one.”

I don’t know why we even bother to argue with God. He’s going to win. Always. “But God, I’m a nonfiction writer and this is a free book. Got it? FREE. I don’t want to waste a free book on fiction. I don’t write fiction. I don’t even read fiction.”

He repeated. “Take the purple one. The one about writing a novel.” When God repeats something, pay attention.

Totally disgusted, I picked up the book and tucked it inside my briefcase. At home, I put it on a far shelf and tried to ignore it for at least two weeks. But every time I walked into my office, that purple cover stared at me. Every time I started to read another book, that novel-writing book seemed to yell, “Pick me. Pick me.”

Finally. “Okay, okay. I’ll read the stupid thing.”

Like most Writer’s Digest books, it was thorough and interesting. I highlighted several sections, certain that I would never use the information but fascinated with the process. Without committing myself to ever write a novel, I began to realize that while nonfiction writers tell the facts, well-written novels tell the truth. And in that process, they also teach the reader.

Hmm – could it possibly be that within the healing of strongholds and the stretching of comfort zones, God might be changing my genre? Was there a story God wanted me to tell? And if so, how should that happen?

Stay tuned for Step 2