Hope Exists in Layers

Layers of HopeWith all the natural disasters we’ve seen in 2017, I’m re-thinking the topic of hope.

Not that I have abandoned its importance, but rather thinking how it presents itself and how we react to it.

All this reflection has led me to believe hope exists in layers.

Layer One: The everyday expression of hope.

We use the word “hope” glibly even as we bless each other with its presence.

“Hope you have a good day.”

“Hope your hamburger is well done.”

“Hope you enjoy this fall season.”

Layer One of Hope is important because it places a positive spin on our lives. The word is easy to say, even easier to share as we convey a genuine forward-looking attitude.

None of us can live without some sliver of hope.

Layer Two: The hope shared during crises.

This is the layer so evident in 2017’s chaotic year of disasters. With every hurricane, fire and earthquake – people somehow summon a measure of hope.

“We will rebuild!” they promise as their fortitude spreads across the world.

People volunteer to help them clean up the sludge left from perpetual rains. Organizations ask for donations, and those with giving hearts willingly comply. The nightly news includes a section for inspiring America where we weep with those who weep yet rejoice with those who smile through their tears.

This layer requires a sinew of courage we all hope to possess and exhibit when it’s our turn to suffer.

In the sharing of Layer Two, we relish the pride of coming together, of connecting for the greater good, of forgetting for a moment our petty differences.

We discover in Layer Two what is truly important.

Layer Three: The darkest, longest road to recovery.

When we reach this layer, we discover our inner core. This type of hope transcends the others because it has to duplicate itself every day. Somehow, this hope digs past the detritus of chaos.

The journey to Layer Three screams at the unfairness of death yet pushes past the grief because life is too precious to abandon.

These are the volunteers who ignore soul-weary fatigue as they prepare another 458 meals in Houston, then serve with a smile.

These are the firefighters, grimy from hours in sooty ash, who find the gumption to return to the flames and fight again.

These are the workers, sometimes using their hands, who remove piles of rubble. They carefully place stone upon stone because they believe a child might still be alive and the slightest mistake will delete all hope.

Only the bravest survive in Layer Three and from them – we never hear the monotone of complaint.

They continue to hope although they have no water, no shelter and no clothing. Their lives have been destroyed, yet hope keeps their hearts beating. They long to hear from a loved one when all the cell towers are down and communications cut off. They continue to believe and trust in hope.

These Layer Three folks are the families who take in strangers, because it’s the right thing to do.

This is the businessman who opens his store because he has mattresses available for bone-weary National Guardsmen and homeless wanderers.

This is the Red Cross receptionist who answers thousands of calls with a sweet voice.

Hope is alive but presents itself in various ways – depending on the layer we live through and our reaction to it.

I’m striving for Layer Three even as I pray the need for it will not come to my community. But if it does, may we all be strong enough to persevere – then emerge victorious on the other side.

©2017 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

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Silent Saturdays Disrupt Hope

We have recently celebrated Holy Week with its tragic Friday event and the victorious Resurrection Sunday.

saturdayBut the day in the middle – the silent Saturday – lives on in many of our lives.

It must have been the darkest day for those early believers. Their Savior was dead and the resurrection was only a prophecy they weren’t sure would become reality.

Discouragement. Frustration. Doubt.

In hindsight, we know the end of the story. But silent Saturdays continue to haunt many present day believers.

We have come to faith, considered the meaning behind the crucifixion and based our lives on its Gospel message. We know Christ lives and will return again. The Holy Spirit gifts us and guides us. All that is good.

Yet many of us still dwell within our personal silences:

  • The woman who has prayed for her abusive husband, now going on 28 years. She believes yet the answer waits behind the veil of Saturday’s silence. He continues to abuse her. She continues to stay because she believes God has asked her to.
  • The man who needs a job to support his family. He is trained, highly educated with stellar references, yet his silent Saturday continues. His hope dries like brittle resumé
  • The family that has journeyed through cancer with a beloved child. Every remission brings hope. Then another tumor interrupts hope. Their silent Saturdays revolve around chemo, radiation treatments and the fear that constantly threatens.
  • The spouse who sits beside his beloved – a woman who no longer recognizes him. Alzheimer’s has stolen his resurrection joy because her afflicted brain is wrapped in the tentacles of a silent Saturday.
  • The writers who persevere , waiting for that first book contract
  • The hostages who pray for release
  • The marginalized who fight for equality and wonder how many years and how many court dates exist between Friday and Sunday

At some point in life, we all struggle to endure another day – to somehow crawl past our silent Saturdays into victorious Sunday.

But the waiting continues and requires courage to keep breathing, keep struggling, keep hoping.

Answers hide within the loving heart of God as our “Why” questions echo off canyon walls of aloneness.

Yet the only hope we truly have is to repeat the glorious cries of those early believers. “He is not here.” Resurrection dawns.

Someday time will morph into eternity. Silent Saturdays will no longer exist and we will understand why we needed to wait so long.

All we can do now is cling to the hope that Sunday will return. Then we will forever be finished with the silence.

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

 

 

 

Hope Remembers Jewel

We met as volunteers at a pregnancy crisis center – she with a desire to publish her books, I with the time and expertise to help her.praying woman silhouette

As writers, we both understood the calling and the passion of words – of using written tools to communicate God’s love.

We shared a room at a writers conference. I helped her publish another book.

Then our paths separated as I moved away. Yet somehow the connection endured, mainly because of her persistence in prayer.

She handwrote long letters, wanting to know what I was writing, where I was submitting my work.

And I knew, as surely as I knew her name – Jewel was persisting in prayer for my words.

Every consecutive letter – always snail mail as computers were not her love language – ended with “How are your writings? I am praying.”

And for every new book I published, I sent her a copy inscribed with “Thank you for praying these words into being.”

The years passed and I read of her progressive health issues, the struggle of car problems so frustrating for this dedicated widow, how to pay the rising taxes so she could stay in her home. The tales of grandchildren and the support of her family added color to her missives.

She asked about my son and always – always ended with, “How are your writings? I am praying.”

Then came that horrible day when the Easter card I had sent her was returned. A note from her beloved children, “Mom passed away – peacefully.”

No more letters from my Jewel. No more questions about my writing. Our connection now separated by the boundary of eternity.

This week, as I readied my office to become a true writer’s study, I thought about Jewel. Now that I am transitioning into the place I’ve always wanted to be, I knew she would find pleasure in the journey.

Is Jewel asking God about my writings? Is she reminding him of all the packets of prayer stored up on behalf of my passion?

Since God treasures all our tears and keeps them in a heavenly flask, does he also store prayers in a special file labeled for our destinies?

Do the prayers of a lifetime, from a faithful warrior, still affect the present?

I believe they do.

I live in the hope that our prayers for our children will continue to storm the throne of God – even when we are gone.

And God will listen because he cares. He will act, because we care.

Even now, I believe my writings are covered with Jewel’s prayers. The words will make an eternal difference, because one woman cared. And one woman prayed.

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

 

 

How to Find Hope in a Puzzle

puzzle piecesThe puzzle I’m currently working on reflects the colors and the design of the Southwest – a region of our nation I love. Turquoise moccasins, Native American pottery and a sunset of desert textures.

Yet beyond the stress-relieving act of fitting my puzzle pieces together, God is teaching me precious lessons of faith.

Think About the Big Picture

Once I found the borders of the puzzle, everything should have begun to snugly fit together. But something didn’t look right.

My son found the answer because he’s a forest guy while I look at the trees. “This piece right here doesn’t fit,” he said. “It skews the big picture.”

He was right and once I found the correct piece, suddenly the picture made more sense.

Sometimes we think a certain direction is best for our lives. But something about the final decision doesn’t seem right. Something doesn’t fit. Red flags stop us or circumstances change.

We can’t see the big picture, but God can. He exists beyond the past, present and future. He knows how to work out our lives and fit each day into the next so our destinies become clear.

Don’t Try to Force an Answer

A puzzle piece may look right and seem to fit, but one side seems to snag or won’t quite align. Forcing the piece into that particular hole can bend it or even break it. Then the puzzle is flawed.

If we try to force something to work or move forward on our own, we can damage ourselves or someone else.

If the circumstances aren’t working out and our pathways seem skewed, trying to force a decision, a relationship or a direction messes with our destinies.

How many of us have forged ahead and forced something to happen, then later regretted our actions?

When God manages the puzzles of our lives, all the pieces end up fitting together – perfectly – without adverse circumstances.

Give It Time

A 300-piece puzzle cannot be completed in one hour. My puzzle has been on the table for several weeks. I work on it now and then, usually a few minutes at a time.

As we face decisions or transitions in life, they take time to percolate and work out all the details.


Patience is learned through the long passage of time. Hurry is the antagonist of patience.


The Alzheimer’s journey is a test of endurance – one 36-hour day after another.

Starting a new job involves a learning curve and perseverance.

Writing a book may involve late nights, early mornings or weekend discipline. One word, one sentence, one character sketch at a time until the final period is typed. Sometimes the process takes years.

The best answers are revealed as a result of a waiting period. The strongest faith is birthed through years of experience, long periods of waiting and the courage to ask questions that may even increase our struggle.

We often don’t see a purpose in the details until patience has completed its perfect work.

The Apostle James underscored this truth. “When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:3-4 TLB).

God rarely answers our “Why” questions but instead, he urges us to trust – even when we’re so weary we can only continue the journey with an extra measure of God’s grace.

My puzzle gives me joy because I love the colors and the promise of what the final product will be.

Surely God also feels joy when he moves the pieces of our lives together so the final result reflects his love.

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

How to Find Hope in Dandelions

dandelions on handThey raise their little heads above the sprigs of grass. At first, I am cheered by the bright yellow dots in my yard. “It will soon be time for the garden,” I tell the cat. Yes, I talk to my cat.

But by the time they lose their sunshiny tops and begin to climb higher, then sprout white seeds that blow all over creation, I am no longer thrilled to see them.

However, I am always amazed how dandelions persevere through every winter and reappear in my yard. Even though I dig them out each spring, they ride the wings of the wind and once again mess up my plans for a weedless garden.

Weeds are plants out of place. Dandelions are out of place among my peas, green beans and clematis.


But these same weeds have caused me to reflect on the spiritual lessons God sends through creation.


Perseverance: No matter how many times I dig them out and throw away their roots, dandelions reappear. They have conquered my garden space in spite of toxic chemicals, sharp mower blades and a shovel full of dirt. No amount of mulch deters their upward journey as they poke through the cypress sticks or pop up next to the hyacinth.

“Howdy!” they scream. “Here we are again!”

I would like to have that same character trait so that no matter who hurts me or what weapon is used against me, I continue my journey toward the Light.

Location:  Dandelions sprout anywhere and everywhere – between sidewalk cracks, in the middle of rocky landscapes and cuddled next to strawberry blossoms.

My hope is to be an encouragement no matter where I am – seated on the church pew, waiting in the long line for meds in Wal-Mart or sweating out stress in the workplace.

Dandelions teach that location is not as important as vocation. A consistent life of character is my goal – no matter where I sprout.

Effectiveness: Although we kill dandelions, some cultures nurture them for the greens and the tea. When these weeds live in the right place, they prove to be useful plants.

I begin every day with the desire to serve God and others. While it IS important to rest and observe the Sabbath, I pray God will use my work days to help someone else. Within the words I write, the gifts God has given me and my very existence, I want to make a difference.

In Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for” (TLB).

In spite of the spiritual lessons, dandelions are still not welcome in my garden. But as I dig them out and rid the landscape of their threat, they continue to remind me of a higher goal.

Even a weed praises the Creator who does all things well.

©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

 

Hope Reproduces

From the final months of 2014 to the first calendar pages of 2015, I have seen how hope reproduces.

Five of my coaching clients have leapt toward their writing dreams. My role as their writing coach has been to encourage them, help them find resources and ask the hard questions that stretch wordsmiths, resulting in stronger creativity and exciting results.Coaching laptop

I have asked their permission to share these results. Normally, my coaching clients receive the highest level of confidentiality but really – I must brag on them and to do that – I must use their names.

Amy Bovaird writes from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania where she encourages her readers and me. She suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which I knew nothing about until I met Amy. She constantly inspires me and when her book, “Mobility Matters”  was published, I imagine everyone in Pennsylvania heard me cheer. Amy is working on a second book while speaking about hope and encouragement even while she gradually loses her sight. But she writes from that inner sanctum where quality vision exists, using her other senses to find the most effective words and ministry. Check out Amy’s work at AmyBovaird.com.

When Jerry Lout signed up for his very first writers conference, he also decided to enter one of the contests. First conference. First contest. And he won first place in the Adult Nonfiction category. I nearly busted my buttons with pride. He also writes from a place of difficult experience, from the story of a young boy diagnosed with polio. The tagline of Jerry’s blog, “Running Life’s Race with a Limp” chronicles his life and the generations before him. Jerry never writes from the viewpoint of a victim but rather from a victorious heart that knows how to search for and find hope. Jerry’s excellent blog is found at JerryLout.com and next year, I’m confident – he’ll be holding his book.

I met Molly Totoro at a writers conference where she expressed interest in coaching. We’ve been working together over a year now and I am constantly enriched by the words that come from Molly’s posts. We share many of the same creative juices, but Molly’s writing far exceeds mine. She has the most amazing vision for marrying her love of scrapbooking with the need for story. She’s developing a business called Milestone Memoirs while she posts at http://mycozybooknook.blogspot.com/. She is also a contributing writer for a ministry that serves hurting women, GateWay of Hope. You can learn more about Molly through her website at http://steppingstonespublications.com/.

Nancy Kay Grace and I connected at another writers conference. Nancy Kay impressed me with her depth of faith but also with her ability to share that faith with her readers. She posted wonderful devotions and wanted those devotions merged into a publishable book. So we worked together and every time we met, more amazing depth came from Nancy’s soul. Just this last month, that book became a reality. “The Grace Impact” is a beautiful and touching answer to a prayer that Nancy Kay and I shared. You can learn more about Nancy Kay and her speaking ministry at NancyKayGrace.com.

Sometimes hope is wrapped in a nice little package and other times, it requires fortitude to search it out. Author Jane Tucker knows about that type of courage. She wanted to write the book she longed to read, and as an avid reader – she knew what she was looking for. So she began the writing journey, finished her book and then realized it needed a change. So she rewrote the entire book from a more concentrated angle, revised it, let other writers critique it, reworked it and finally submitted it for publication. Just a few weeks ago, Jane received the wonderful and exciting news. “Lottie’s Gift” will be released in 2016, and I can hardly wait. When a writer works that hard on a dream, the final result is sure to be joyful. Jane also writes wonderful stories called “Postcards from the Heartland” on her website at JaneMTucker.com.

As you check out these writers, I think you’ll see why I’m so proud of them, how they encourage me with their perseverance and why I enjoy coaching writers. Hope reproduces as writers continue to move toward their dreams.

And as the Word of God lives in us, then the words he gives us find a home in our readers’ hearts. I hope you’ll follow these creative spirits and help them increase with even more hope.

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