Hope Observes

coffee and bagelMost of my reflecting time is spent in the solitude of my home study. But occasionally, I venture into the world of people for a cuppa Joe. I often bring a journal, a book to read, paper and pen to write ideas or work on a blog post – such as this one.

As I reflected in a local Panera, I wished I owned stock in the company. Throughout the years, I have ingested gallons of their teas and lately – experienced the scrumptious delight of their gluten free chocolate cookies. Better than a brownie, I promise!

Whenever I join the human race in a public place, I observe the people. Some of them may become characters in a future novel. Yes – writers do insert real people in their books. Live your life with caution.

An older couple sits quietly at a round table, slowly chewing croissants without talking or even looking at one another. Years of marriage enrich the silence of the moment. What is there to talk about after so many years together? Maybe these fluffy croissants are their one treat for the week or the month – until the next Social Security check revives their bank balance.

A woman after my own heart reads alone, occasionally sipping her coffee. Obviously engrossed in her book, she seems lost in the words. Is she learning something new, researching for a college class or trying to escape some chaos in her present life by entering into the fictional world of the book’s protagonist?

Two women chat near me, slathering butter on their bagels. One talks with a shrill timber. The other is the listener. If I eavesdrop carefully, I learn about the toddler’s attempts at potty training, how the hubby works hard but does not care about the fatigue of this young mommy.

Do they suspect I intrude on their privacy? Do they care? Probably not, as their goal is to share their hearts with each other, to find another soul who empathizes.

Another table filled with businessmen, their Mac books opened to spread sheets and planners – terse statements about sales and marketing.

And the workers who assemble salads, soups and steel cut oats to fulfill requests. Working hard yet often rendered invisible because each customer is captured by his own story with his own reason for spending the morning at Panera.

I am grateful for this place and for the freedom to sit and observe. I am also aware of the God who cares for each person’s story – the Divine One who designed destinies before the foundation of the world and wants desperately for each person in this place to know how much he loves each soul.

Then the writer in me kicks in and I play the What If game:

  • What if the older gentleman is hiding a fortune in stolen coins?
  • What if his wife is really his pastor and has no idea about his hidden sin?
  • What if the pastor is hiding the fortune in stolen coins?

And away I go into the world of creative thought, fashioning a new story for each character I observe.

Don’t you think God the Creator had fun designing our lives before we were born?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

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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

 

 

Hope Realigns

arrows - alignmentA pastor began his introduction into the Communion Service with a call for confession. “This is the time to realign our hearts,” he said, “to make sure we are ready to receive the bread and cup together.”

Realigning our hearts to God – I had never considered that viewpoint but I liked it. As I bowed my head and confessed sins and errors of judgment, prideful thoughts of the week and the taking of offenses that did not belong to me – I was grateful for moments of contemplative confession.

Sometimes phrases and words stay with me for a long time. I ponder them, journal about them, pray fervently for clarity.

As I thought about the topic of realignment and pondered this blog post, I saw the need for realignment in many areas of life.

My last post centered on the topic of release as I linger in God’s waiting room.

How can I realign my soul as I wait and release?

As I work on necessary patience, I realign my heart to accept whatever God’s answers might be. Bringing my heart back to the correct focus is a constant soul work and a spiritual discipline I want to conquer.

When we have struggles in relationships, we might consider the idea of realignment. How can we be mutually submissive so that compromise works and love scores a win?

How can we set healthy boundaries in our lives and realign our hearts with what is truly important? We might try less productivity for the sake of dollars; more reaching out to the needy.

As a writer, my creative mind constantly sparks with new ideas – another book I yearn to write, articles and blog posts to reach the masses through cyberspace, another website focused on my coaching outreach.

But in this season of active ministry, my time to construct paragraphs and plots, characters and resolutions is limited. The achievement of polished manuscripts lies dormant.


I must realign my goals with reality and wait for the time when ideas bring a harvest. God is glorified even in the waiting.


Especially during this Lenten season, I seek to realign my soul with the important rather than the urgent, to find my joy in the simple pleasure of God’s presence and the divine whisper that sings lullabies at night.

Then when resurrection comes – whether it is Easter Sunday, resolutions within relationships or the birth of a new book – I will know hope has preceded me.

Realignment will have succeeded and once again – I will journey on the right path.

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