Hope Sings

Woman-celebratingMy deck umbrella waves in the slight August wind as I sit in its shade. God has granted a beautiful summer morning and time for reflection.

So beautiful outside yet not so lovely within.

Still struggling with an illness and wondering why healing waits. Disgusted with myself that I cannot find joy when I face uncomfortable circumstances.

Count it all joy,” James demands.

I am not in a joyful place. My faith is too weak.

Let endurance, steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work.” Waiting is so hard for me.

Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Rest. Not the rest that revives during a vacation to the mountains of New Mexico, but the emotional and lovely rest of a contented soul.

I think of the brave women I know who live with chronic pain. Somehow, they find their joy even in the midst of the struggle. They live with gratitude and accomplish what they can while setting healthy boundaries. My she-roes, every one of them.

But I cannot reproduce what they own.


My joy button needs to be re-set, and I cannot find the mechanism.


Although I DO know joy resides within me, somehow I cannot feel it on this beauteous August morning. I attempt joyful activities, because I know I should and must. I journal through the struggle, work on my Southwest puzzle, bang on the piano.

But the feeling of joy – that inner light sparkling in the eyes of my friend who has multiple sclerosis, laughter bubblings from infants, the glow shining from weathered saints’ faces – somehow that brand of joy eludes me.

Can I only be joyful when every circumstance feels perfect and in sync? How shallow is my faith!

Yet hope peeks from behind the curtain of Psalm 68 as the divine calls me to find the page. “God is beginning to rise….”

Somehow just knowing there will indeed be a beginning brings hope and the knowing that God is present. A sudden blip of peace.

The Psalm urges me onward to nuggets of hope:

  • Let the uncompromisingly righteous be glad. Have I somehow compromised my joy?
  • Let them be in high spirits. I cannot remember the last time I was in high spirits.
  • Let them glory before God, to rejoice in him.

How can this “letting” happen? How can I manufacture this feeling of joy once again?

The solution whispers in Psalm 68:4:

  • Sing to God.
  • Sing praises to his name.
  • His name is the Lord. Jehovah, my eternal Husband and Maker, Friend, Lover of my soul.
  • Be in high spirits and glory before him.

So I obey, moving to my back yard to dance near the strawberry patch. I lift my hands upward. The song comes timidly at first, a familiar melody yet different words.

No soul response yet, so I dig deeper and sing louder – uncaring if the neighbors look out and see me cavorting with God in my back yard.

The hallelujahs of melody begin to ring true. I sing the words of Psalm 68:4 and forget the rules of musical theory. The important focus is on the spirit of the words.

I ignore the enemy’s taunts, the memories of the past week, the frailties of my humanity. Instead, I lift my praises to the only one who truly knows the condition of my soul.

And glory – there it comes – a bubble of joy resurfacing and lighting my inner self with its purity.

God sends a dragonfly to cheer me, to flap his lacey wings in response to the beat of creative worship. He flicks his beady eyes in my direction and dares me to imagine a creator who fashioned his spindly body one day and a sturdy oak the next.

God is beginning to rise. I praise him for the beginnings and glorify him for the rising of his presence once again.

Hope sings and joy responds.

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

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Hope Conquers the Chaos

As a writer, observation is one of my most important tools. Awareness of this tool causes me to listen for dialects when people talk and later incorporate those rhythms into the characters who people my novels.

Observation notes interesting quirks such as the depth of a dimple, a spontaneous laugh or fingers drumming on a barn wood plank. The benefits of observation add color and texture to my words without plagiarizing on the lives before me.change - chaos

Sometimes a graphic or a word suddenly surprises me with its potential. I see it, reflect on it and journal through it. Soon it becomes a theme, a sentence that stretches into a paragraph or as in this case – a graphic morphs into a blog post.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos” read the graphic, and I have no idea who deserves the attribution. But it pummeled into my soul like a snare drum in the early morning fog.

Chaos in the Journey

How appropriate for this journey I have traveled the last two years! The chaos of searching for a church forced me to consider the depths of my spiritual hunger and what my faith has taught me – either wrongly or with stunning accuracy.

The journey and the change – the processing of who I am at the core flattened me so that I often landed on my knees – an appropriate stance for any soul-seeker living in chaos.

Then gradually, as my choice settled into a murky concrete, the chaos eased.

Replaced by the peace that passes all understanding, my decision radiated with joy – maybe not so much because of where I chose to fellowship but more because the search had finally ended.

Even now, I find myself restless, seeking change yet dreading the chaos. I feel the rumbles of change in our nation and no – I am not going to talk politics. Whoever wins will face a changing nation because we are not what we were even two years ago.

Chaos again threatens.

Perhaps the power of observation has settled more deeply in my soul for a reason. Aging seems to magnify change.

With my mom, who lives within the shadowy world of Alzheimers, any change in routine creates anxiety. So we carefully monitor her visits to the farm, even her attendance at the church she loves.

I do not believe Alzheimers now whispers within my brain, but there is a definite disturbance in the force. The chaos of change creeps ever closer.

Even the divine warns, “Everything will change. The foundations are shaken.”


Perhaps the chaos that threatens will result in a national revival that will change how we perceive each other’s worlds. Would it not be wonderful if skin color no longer divided us into urban and rural, poor and rich, dead and alive.


I so wish change would eliminate broken children, abused women and toxic relationships. Please, God – let it be.

Yet experience teaches that these changes cannot and never will occur without some sort of chaos.

Sometimes I curse the tool of observation because it hurts so much. Yet change implies growth and as we stretch – albeit with pain – we eventually grow stronger.

God bless America and God help us all as we face whatever chaos is ahead. May each of us find our own destiny within this changing world and make it a better place to call home.

And may we all stay in hope that after the chaos fades, peace will dawn.

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

Hope Sits With My Child

Because of our busy schedules, we rarely see each other. This boy child who has become a man in such a short time – my only living child, my son.

Yet each time we are together, the emotional bond feels as strong as if we had never experienced a separation. We sit in the living room, watching the news or a rerun of Blue Bloods. We switch to ESPN and cheer for the Jayhawks.

sitting on sofasAcross those few feet in my living room, the emotional umbilical cord stretches. We are content to merely sit and be.

A certain joy exists when the child becomes an adult and the two of us can share the same space without the hormonal conflicts of a male teenager and a menopausal woman.

This peace indeed is a palpable blessing.

When I visit my mother in assisted living, we share the same bond. Though the roles are reversed and I am now the child – still we find a peaceful coexistence in the moment.

We watch television or not. We read or not. We sit silently without conflict, knowing that just being together is precious.

Until I sat with my child, I did not realize the pure treasure of sitting with a loved one.

No need for conversation. No stress to finish a chore. No desire to fix a meal or hurry anywhere.

Just the quiet assurance that we are together. Each of us knows a time will come when we cannot share such a physical space.

A sacred communion. An extraordinary gifting.

On either side of this juncture, I cherish the bond. Knowing my child will one day leave, certain my mother will graduate to heaven.

And I will be left – to savor this fragile breath we have shared and find hope that in the future – we will sit together again.

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

Hope Lives in Forgiveness

Thanks to the insights of some prayer warriors, I was recently confronted with an ugliness in my soul. A spirit of unforgiveness had settled within and kept me from living in joyful peace.

After a time of confession and intense prayer, by God’s grace, I was able to release the pain that led to the unforgiveness. Peace came as a blessed byproduct.forgiveness clouds pic

The experience reminded me once again of the importance of forgiveness, and of how difficult it is to actually step through that door.

In order to forgive, we first have to be willing to feel our pain and grieve it in a healthy way. We also have to realize that the problem isn’t just about our suffering but it’s also how we perceive what has been done to us – and who did it.

Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we even have to forgive God for allowing such pain into our lives.

But as long as we live in the bitterness of refusing to forgive, hope stalls and with it, the energy to move forward. We become stuck in whatever action caused the pain. We relive it and each time we pick up that grudge, we carry a heavier burden.

We become victims rather than victors and the ugliness inside will eventually seep into our souls and even our bodies. We can, literally, kill ourselves with bitterness and hate.

The news reports lately have reminded us how far we still have to go to find true acceptance of each other. America suffers from the grief of lost lives, damaged reputations and questions about injustice.

It is a blight on our land and an attack against the very soul of a country that was founded on colorful demographics. Although I don’t understand all the nuances of what has happened, I do feel the grief of families who have lost children, store owners who have watched their businesses burn and stereotypes profiled unfairly on both sides.

I know how easy it is to allow our pain to gnaw through the goodness God has granted us and to refuse to show grace to each other. One side of my family tree is decorated with Cherokees who were forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women and children died along the Trail of Tears. The tragedy was so intense, even the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this debauchery wept.

Yet the Native Americans still thrive as a people, proud of their heritage, artistic in their pursuits and determined to seek a better livelihood for their children. It has taken several generations of honest confrontation, better laws and yes – even some national apologies to make peace happen.

I personally know some of these beautiful people from the Sooner State who learned how to forgive the past and moved into a place of mutual respect with those who stole their land.

We all make mistakes. We stumble and fail. We disappoint God and ourselves and yes – sometimes we make life-changing errors. But somewhere in the road back to sanity, we have to find a way to learn from the experience and not do it again.

I believe one of the stepping stones in that road is labeled forgiveness. I wish we would give it a try.

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

 

4 Treasures in Dark Places

Today I welcome a writer who shares the same publisher with me, Cross River Media. Angela D. Meyer is the author of “Where Hope Starts,” a story about God’s redemption in the middle of a crumbling marriage. Angela lives in Omaha, NE with her husband of more than 22 years. She home-schools their daughter and recently graduated their son who is now off to the Marines. She has taught Bible classes for over 35 years and served for almost three years on the leadership team of her local Christian writers’ group. Angels loves God, her family, the ocean, good stories, connecting with friends, taking pictures, quiet evenings and a good laugh. Someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon and vacation by the sea. 

 “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 43:3 (NIV)

I worked in the kitchen and attempted to bury my emotions. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember feeling sorry for myself. I tried to dump chicken bones into a garbage bag, but spilled them onto my freshly cleaned floor. Angela Meyer

Past overwhelmed, I bent to clean up the mess and began to cry out to God. His peace crept into my heart.

God used a moment of despair to bring me to my knees: the place I needed to go to find my strength. I couldn’t help but laugh. The method was not my favorite. Who wants to clean up old chicken bones? 

God’s ways may not be conventional or expected, but He does redeem our seasons in the valley. Some of the blessings I have uncovered when I turned to God during the dark times include:

Strength. When we stop trying to do everything ourselves, God steps in and supplies the strength we need. He is stronger than anything we face.

Peace. Once we experience His presence with us through the dark places, trust comes a bit easier. We can rest assured that no matter the circumstance, He keeps us in the palm of his hand.

Wisdom. Experiencing God’s provision first hand gives us an understanding of His character. This translates into other situations and teaches us how to behave in a way that brings glory to God.

Gratefulness. When we intentionally take notice of all that God is doing around us, even in the middle of a trial, it helps us pull our head out of the muck and be grateful.

The times I need Him the most seem to be the most difficult to let go of my will. But it’s worth it to allow Him to fill my heart with blessings.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

 What blessings have you found in the dark places of your life?

Finding Hope When Stress Unravels

I know better.

I even teach how to do it better – how to live a creative life that feeds on play.

Yet recently, the stresses of life gained the advantage and play disappeared. It was all I could do to get up in the morning and look at my longer-than-ever list of tasks that “must” be completed.

But even though I knew better, I continued to live in the pattern of extreme hurry-ness, checking off each task as if its completion kept my world rotating in the proper direction.

Then, just as I began to wonder how long I could keep up the pace, I crashed. I sat on my deck during a beautiful autumn afternoon and instead of enjoying the colors and feeling gratitude for the moment, I wept.

Stress tears finally broke and leaked from my soul. In that moment, I knew something had to change.

As if to confirm my self-diagnosis, that evening I tried to write.

For me, writing is the same as breathing. Words go in through the books I read and on any given day at any given moment, words expel in creative bangles that treat my soul to its beauty sound.

I write when I’m happy and I write when I’m sad. I write books and articles and character sketches and sometimes – a type of poetry that somehow morphs into prose.

But when I am too stressed, my soul replies with a sort of dis-ease and the words become blocked and lost behind a stiff wall of pain.

When I am stressed, writing becomes a chore and everything else revolves around its unhappiness and the unsettling of soul regret.

Worse, when I cannot write because of stress, I feel bereft of the gift God gave me for creativity and connection with Him. Typing the words He whispers brings a sort of completion of the gift – His breath in me, His words coming from me, then His words back within me.

When I write, I feel Him smile. The joy of the Creator resides in my soul, cached in that holy of holies within.

When I cannot write from stress, that block keeps joy from bubbling to the surface and instead becomes a tentacle of aloofness. I cannot feel God. I cannot breathe.

So how do I fight against the stresses that tempt me to self-destruct?

First, I say, “No.” When someone asks me to do another task that steals my joy – I say, “No.” I set the boundaries that protect my soul and keep that God-given creativity fresh and alive.

Second, I find ways to play. The best remedy for stress is play. So I sit at the piano and make up a new tune. I pull out my wonderful box of 64 crayons and fill in the lines in my coloring book. Who cares if the frog is purple? No one grades my coloring.

I take long walks and this time of year, search for pretty leaves to take home and plant on my sink so that I can see them as I do the dishes and remember to keep a joyful heart.autumn-leaves.jpg

I browse through bookstores and search for other words that nurture my sentences. I read books from authors I admire and wish to emulate.

I stroll through a garden nursery and touch the flowers that God designed, marvel at all the intricate shapes and colors and remind Him how much I love Him.

Then I go home and defy the stress to leave me alone as I sit down once again and search for my creative source.

Once defeated, stress has a harder time finding me. I am camouflaged within hope and joy, able to find peace again and offer my treasure back to God.

Then my writing becomes worship, and my work reflects joy.

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

Worship Visited

On the last day of our Sabbatical weekend in Yoder, Kansas, we rise to worship and spend a few hours with the local body of believers.

Amish horse and buggyWe are invited to the Journey Mennonite Church – a group of Christ-followers who share some of the Amish beliefs and ancestral beginnings. Simple values. The Bible as its guidebook. Friendly folks who shake our hands and treat us like family.

The church is an old structure, repurposed for more contemporary worship. We wear our blue jeans and T-shirts, comfy shoes and no one cares. So different from the traditions of my past. I like it. I know that even Reverend G would feel welcome here.

This modern group of believers includes many young families, and they keep the children with them in worship. I love that. The children learn how to pray and how to serve. The young ones are in charge of passing red buckets for the offering.

This is a sad day for this body as they say good-bye to a pastor. He is leaving to tend to family dynamics in another state. A brave man, committed to God’s will. A valiant church, willing to send him away.

God will fill the gap, send another to minister to these sheep, to ease their grieving hearts.

God also fills the gap in me as we worship together. First, we sing the contemporary praises with guitar and voice, then we move into a couple of hymns. My soul gasps as the words of one of my favorite hymns project onto the wall.

“When peace like a river attendeth my soul. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well. It is well with my soul.”

As the chorus builds, the guitar is silenced and we sing in the six-part harmony of my youth. Worship comes easy within such beauty. The blending voices of young couples, us graying folks and the next generation – all together in one spirit praise God that all is well.

I raise my hands even as my throat fills with tears. The Alpha and Omega of my soul is in this place.  Worship swells in abundance as the chords build a crescendo within this aging building.

And I know that wherever I am, whether on sabbatical in the small town of Yoder or on ministry duty in the busy-ness of Kansas City – it is indeed well with my soul.